Missing major piece, Wolves try to bounce back vs. Lakers


The Los Angeles Lakers did not win a playoff game Friday, it just felt that way and they will aim to take the same energy into yet another matchup with a top


team, this one against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday.


The Lakers fended off the Milwaukee Bucks 123-122 at home Friday without the services of LeBron James, who was experiencing soreness in a nagging left ankle injury.


Stepping to the forefront was D’Angelo Russell, who scored a season-high 44 points and matched a career high with nine made 3-pointers on 12 attempts. Russell


finished off the Bucks by scoring the team’s last eight points.



The clincher was a floater along the side of the lane with 5.9 seconds remaining as Russell scored five points in the final 39.4 seconds.


Russell was rumored to be a potential trade piece for the Lakers to shore up their roster for a run to the playoffs. But an uptick in offense — 22.8 points per game


since Jan. 13 — convinced Los Angeles to keep him.


“Public humiliation has done nothing but mold me into the killer that you all see today,” said Russell, who lost his starting role for a short stretch around the start

of the new year. “I never lack confidence.


I never fear confrontation. I want all the smoke. … I just feel confident in what I bring to the basketball game, so whatever room I walk in, I’m confident.”


The Lakers’ on-court celebration Friday really kicked into high gear when new Lakers addition Spencer Dinwiddie blocked a long-range jumper by the Bucks’


Damian Lillard just before the buzzer. Dinwiddie, a Los Angeles-area native, was added after the trade deadline when his contract was bought out by the Toronto Raptors.


“Obviously, Dame’s one of the best clutch-time performers that the NBA’s seen,” Dinwiddie said. “To be able to make that play was fun. It was a great moment.”


The Timberwolves will enter off a 113-104 overtime loss at Cleveland on Friday, their second overtime defeat in their last five games. Minnesota is 2-3 over that


five-game stretch after winning seven of eight.


It was the Timberwolves’ second game without Karl-Anthony Towns, who is expected to miss extended time with a knee injury. Naz Reid scored a career-high 34


points off the bench, Anthony Edwards added 19 and Rudy Gobert had 17 rebounds.


The Wolves were still just a half-game behind the Oklahoma City Thunder for the top spot in the Western Conference heading into Saturday’s NBA play.


Minnesota head coach Chris Finch was not on the bench Friday because of an illness, with assistant coach Micah Nori serving in Finch’s role.


Reid was 7 of 11 from 3-point range, but the rest of the Wolves were 1 of 19. Also troubling was a late technical foul in regulation by Gobert that allowed the


Cavaliers to tie the game on the second night of Minnesota’s back-to-back.


“I don’t know if it was legs on a back-to-back but they had some good looks,” Nori said of his shooters. “Obviously without (Towns), who shoots 40 percent (42.3


percent from distance) and takes a good number of them, we’ve got to find guys who are going to knock it down. … You just have to keep shooting it.”

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