The Los Angeles Lakers are officially headed to the playoffs after defeating the Minnesota Timberwolves in their play-in game this week.
The victory did not come easy, as the matchup required an overtime period, despite the T-Wolves roster being shorthanded. While Rudy Gobert served his suspension for punching his teammate Kyle Anderson and Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid recovered from injuries, Karl-Anthony Towns and Mike Conley kept the team afloat with 24 and 23 points a piece. The Lakers had to overcome a 15-point deficit in the fourth quarter and a crucial late-game foul committed by Anthony Davis, which led to overtime, yet managed to hold on for the 108-102 victory on Tuesday night (April 11).
LeBron James lead the charge with 30 points, 10 rebounds, and six assists. Davis, despite his mistake, was the ideal sidekick with 24 points and 15 rebounds. The true difference maker was Dennis Schroder, who scored 21 points and made three of his four three-pointers, including one that came with 1.4 seconds left in the fourth quarter. He added two clutch free throws in overtime to seal the victory for the Lakers, who now turn their attention to the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies for a seven-game series beginning on Sunday (April 16).
The Timberwolves have one more chance to make the playoffs, taking on the winner of Wednesday’s game between the Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans on Friday (April 14) to decide who secures the No. 8 seed and a matchup with the Western Conference-leading Denver Nuggets.
While the play-in tournament has been viewed as an undeserving second chance for teams who cannot place within the No.1 to No. 8 seed range, it was a welcome opportunity for the Los Angeles Lakers to reestablish themselves as a force in the Western Conference. They began the season with a 2-10 record and headed into the trade deadline with fleeting postseason hopes before making necessary trades.
D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt made an immediate impact upon joining the Lakers’ roster, as the team went on to have the best record in the Western Conference since the deadline, despite going multiple games without LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the road doesn’t get any easier from here, their fearless leader King James has shown he has a knack for overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.