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Lakers 112, Timberwolves 104: Klutch Connection

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Just 2 hours prior to tip-off, an unfortunate WojBomb was dropped on the Timberwolves.

Although I have loudly criticized D’Angelo Russell play, this was certainly news that no one wanted to hear. Whether or not you are a D’Lo fan, he’s here to stay and we have to see the KAT-D’Lo tandem play together before we can make any long term judgments about this team. All positive energy should be sent to Russell for a smooth procedure and speedy recovery.

In less dire, but equally important news, this game marked the second of the YoLeo Household Bowl. With a Laker supporting partner at my side, I decided to up the ante by wagering tomorrow’s lunch on a made-up Lakers spread of -12.5. She (unfortunately) knows how bad the Timberwolves are and smartly felt a 13-point victory should be had.

Game on.

Perhaps motivated by the D’Lo news, the Wolves began the game with a spunky attitude. The starting point guard for the next 4-6 weeks, Ricky Rubio, would get the Wolves going with 8 early points. Anthony Edwards would also enter the scene to engage in a brief, but entertaining duel, with LeBron James as the two of them exchanged buckets. I guess that’s only natural as Ant is the appropriate heir to the throne. It was also reasonable to expect Edwards to go all out tonight since he’s Klutch Sports Group client as well.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota subs would struggle to maintain the momentum that the starters had. They would force a number of live-ball turnovers, but these were the results:

  1. Ant would get an and-1... negated by a poor charge call coaxed by Alex Caruso (Foreshadowing?).
  2. Jordan McLaughlin would embark on a 2-on-1 break... but get the ball tipped out of bounds by Dennis Schroder.
  3. JMac would get a full head of steam with no one ahead of him... just to get chased down blocked at the rim by Caruso (!).
  4. Jaden McDaniels would get a clear look at a layup... but get swatted away by the King.
  5. JMac would smartly pick off an inbounds pass... and miss a wide open 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Not great, Bob.

The Wolves would respond in the 2nd quarter by building their largest lead of the game (8) off the backs of the ol’ JMac-Naz connection and the newly formed Ant-KAT duo, highlighted by the most impressive sequence of the game for the Wolves.

It was just a matter of time before the (incumbent) King would systematically march the Lakers back in front, 57-56, heading into the break.

The final 24 minutes would begin with an awesome display of shot making from both teams. As mentioned earlier, Prince Edwards would tryout the crown again, this time drilling a 3-ball in LeBron’s face to regain a Wolves lead.

The law of averages would return as both teams would inevitably cool down. Most importantly, the Wolves remain in front of the Lakers by mostly avoiding bullets all quarter. It was only after Vogel noticed that Edwards was on the bench, would he call on his fellow Klutch client, LeBron James, to finish the quarter with a 2-point lead heading into the 4th.

The Wolves would force up a number of poor shots due to lack of shot creators on the floor, culminating in wild Naz lefty scoop shots. Only through JMac bailouts would the Wolves muster up any points in first 4 minutes of the period. Meanwhile, LeBron would continue to create open shot after open shot for his teammates as Coach Saunders refused to give up on a JMac/Beasley/JO/Big Mac/Naz lineup which was not working.

By the time KAT and Ant would reenter the game, the Lakers would already have a 9-point lead and they’d never looked back.

Usually, this is where the Wolves would completely fold. We know what that looks like. D’Lo goes rogue and misses mid-rangers. Careless Ricky whispers morph into turnovers. No plays are called on offense. The defense collapses. However this time, once the Lakers went up 14 with just under 7 minutes remaining, a shadowy figure would emerge from the Wolves bench.

Prince Edwards returned. (Don’t worry, I’m only using this moniker for one evening)

Ant would go Super Saiyan and bang in 3 triples to push the rickety Wolves cart to within 5. Oh man, was it some vintage JR Smith stuff as he was smiling ear-to-ear and pumping up the imaginary crowd at Target Center.

On the Wolves next possession, off an offensive rebound, Ant would split Schroder and Kyle Kuzma by practically crawling through a foxhole then nearly hurdle LeBron James for an and-1.

It was a bang-bang play and the case could definitely be made that Ant had already taken off by the time LeBron established position. Although it would’ve been nice to see a challenge, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see the face of the league get the call over the rook. That sequence essentially ended the game though, as LeBron’s future probably flashed before his eyes as Ant’s hibberts were on his shoulders.

Yes, the Wolves had a chance to cut the lead to 3 again on the very next possession in which both Rubio and Jarred Vanderbilt botched point blank layups (Hi Pascal!), but Bron would find Kuzma for 2, Gasol for 3, and then himself for 2 more to put the Lakers back up 12. Ant was out of gas, and who could blame him? Even without Anthony Davis, LeBron + any non-Wiggins/KAT 3rd-stringers (Too soon?) will still wear down most professional basketball teams. At least we got a pulse tonight...

...and at least I’m getting Mongolian BBQ takeout tomorrow for lunch.

Full game highlights

Game Notes

  • The highlight of this season continues to be Ant. Whether things are going good or bad, he’s always brought a smile to everyone’s face. In addition to saying all the right (yet funny) things, he’s now also doing the right things. He scored a career-high 28 points on 50% shooting, hit 5 three-pointers, and rounded out his line with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, and 2 blocks. That’s big time.
  • Perhaps Josh Okogie was motivated by the benching or maybe it was just dumb luck, but he hit two early 3s and provided his typical defensive intensity. He only got 16 minutes of run tonight, but it’s important to know that he has something in the tank.
  • Ricky made some shots and plays, but once again was marred by some late game snafus. A turnover here and a missed shot there might not seem like much, but if he’s the point guard who’s playing 29+ minutes a night on a sizeable contract, our favorite vet cannot afford to be the cause of late game breakdowns.
  • Jaden McDaniels continues to do some cool stuff. He, much like 99% of the NBA, was unable to contain LeBron on his own, but he did have a pair of big blocks in just 18 minutes of play.
  • KAT had a tough time getting going in the second half. His 10 shot attempts, 2 (!) in the second half, was less than Ricky (12) and JMac (12). That doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.
  • The usually reliable Malik Beasley did not play like his usual self. He didn’t have a ton of clean looks, but I’m just still not used to seeing him miss jumpshots. He had 11 points on 15 shot attempts.
  • Can we convert JMac to a regular contract already? He didn’t feel like the team-worst -15 tonight, but his offense was the only thing keeping the Wolves close in the 2nd half. McLaughlin finished with 13/2/4/2 line.
  • LeBron is pretty good at basketball. I’ve had to watch more than my fair share of Laker games this season and during their recent stretch of overtime games, LBJ continued to do what he normally does - take over when the game really counts. Good for him, as he continues in his campaign to reclaim the MVP award. This play though, was kinda funny:
  • Dennis Schroder is annoying. He was totally destined to be a Laker.
  • The FSN broadcast mentioned it multiple times, but the Lakers finally ended a road losing streak in Minnesota. Weird stat.
  • I feel like I should’ve embedded more of my tweets in here so here’s a basketball metaphor to how I usually write game recaps (KAT represents a quality recap, Vando represents my own tweets):