Nothing goes right for Lakers, again, as they fall to Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D'Angelo Russell is fouled by Lakers' Carmelo Anthony with Austin Reaves also defending.
Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell is fouled by Lakers forward Carmelo Anthony (7) with guard Austin Reaves (15) also defending during the first half on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
(Andy Clayton-King / Associated Press)

Patrick Beverley, one of the NBA’s best irritants, held his nose after calling the Lakers “trash.” Karl-Anthony Towns flexed and howled and walked off the court, taunting the Lakers as he celebrated with his bench.

And the Lakers, who sandwiched a decent stretch of basketball with a couple of slices of awful, could do nothing about it.

“This is a front-runnin’ league,” Wayne Ellington said after the Lakers’ 124-104 loss Wednesday. “When you’re up, everything is going great. When you’re down, they’ll kick you.


“So right now, we’ve been getting kicked. And teams have been enjoying it.”

It’s hard to blame the Timberwolves; the Lakers have been such an easy target.

They can’t find the right starting lineup. They can’t stay healthy. They can’t find the right style of play. They can’t find the necessary effort, urgency or intensity. The can’t score and they can’t defend.

If the Lakers want to win another championship and avoid years of mediocrity, they must trade LeBron James.

And, still somehow, they can’t even find rock bottom.

Someday, they’ll run out of fight. Someday, they won’t find the rope to escape some of these holes. And someday, these games will be every bit as embarrassing as they’ve been starting out.

Following horrific opening quarters against the Phoenix Suns and the Toronto Raptors, the Lakers were, somehow, just as bad Wednesday in the first against Minnesota.

They missed nearly everything that wasn’t right at the rim, all 10 three-point shots failing to go through the basket to open the game. They waved their hands and hung their heads as a younger, hungrier, more athletic team highlighted all the things the Lakers aren’t.

It’s happened in three straight games, and the numbers are horrifying.

Against the Suns, Raptors, and Timberwolves the Lakers combined to make just one of 33 three-point attempts — almost impossibly bad shooting numbers.

“Can’t win,” LeBron James said firmly when informed of the stat.

In those quarters, the Lakers have shot 24.6% from the field and have been outscored by a whopping 112-51.

“Just couldn’t put the ball in the basket,” coach Frank Vogel said, a feeling that is starting to become habitual.

The floor could’ve totally fallen out on the Lakers, with Minnesota leading by as many as 25 …but the Lakers didn’t quit.

The team cut that lead to four before crumbling late, tired and frustrated, owners of yet another loss.

It’s not saying much, asking a team to perform its easiest and most important task — to compete — but under the crippling disappointment of this season, there’s a foolish optimism in the way the Lakers keep getting up.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is fouled by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nathan Knight as guard Jaylen Nowell helps defend.
Lakers guard Russell Westbrook is fouled by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Nathan Knight as guard Jaylen Nowell (4) helps defend during the second half on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
(Andy Clayton-King / Associated Press)

“There’s still more game to be played. The game is never over until it’s over,” James said of the Lakers’ fight, though he did admit this season is testing his patience unlike any other.

It’s all just so emblematic of what this season has been — moments of positivity surrounded by unsolvable problems that ultimately sink the Lakers on most nights.

“One thing we’ve been able to do in our locker room is keep hope alive and keep our energy within our team alive and stay positive with each other,” Ellington said. “Hoping for a breakthrough at the right time.”

Wednesday, there was a brief one.

D.J. Augustin sneaked baseline to score to make it 89-85, the Timberwolves outscored the Lakers 25-9 before Vogel mercifully took James out of the game.

Anthony Edwards carried the Timberwolves in the first half when Towns struggled with foul trouble, and Towns howled and flexed late as he put the Lakers away — the big man just too big, too strong and too skilled for the Lakers interior.

Towns scored 16 in the fourth to ice the game, gesturing at the Lakers bench as he checked out of the game before the buzzer.

It’s the 11th straight road loss for the Lakers this season and their third loss in a row.

Since the All-Star break, they’re 2-9, alive in the play-in hunt only because the teams chasing them are among the worst in the West.

James led the Lakers with 19 points, though he was eight of 21 with five turnovers.

The Lakers fell behind the visiting Toronto Raptors by 28 points just 10 minutes into the game Monday. Takeaways from another loss.

The Lakers could easily end up playing the Timberwolves in the NBA’s play-in tournament, even though that, too, requires some unrealistic optimism.

Minnesota is seventh in the West and threatening to move higher. If they don’t, the Lakers could end up finding themselves back in Minneapolis playing one game for their season’s life (provided, of course, they survive their first test in the play-in).

It’s not a great spot.

“At the end of the day, you keep pushing forward,” James said. “I am very comfortable with being uncomfortable so, it doesn’t bother me too much. Obviously, I am a competitor, I want to win. You definitely get frustrated with some things that happen on the floor, but you control what you can control. What you can’t control, you don’t worry about it. You continue to push forward, seeing ways you can continue to get better. Seeing ways you can be great for your ballclub. Seeing ways you can continue to lead.

“It’s easy to be comfortable when you’re winning. I have never been that guy. It is all about how comfortable can you be when things become uncomfortable.”

And James’ Lakers look plenty uncomfortable.