Julius Randle dribbles against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Feb. 15, 2018.
(Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)

Lakers Unable to Hold Off Wolves

by Joey Ramirez
Digital Reporter

After getting bombarded for eight straight quarters, the Lakers’ defense buckled down for the first three of Thursday’s contest in Minnesota.

It was that final frame that cost them victory, as the Timberwolves road a big fourth quarter into a 119-111 win.

The Lakers were outscored in the fourth, 35-20, as they sent Minnesota to the free throw line 15 times.

“In the fourth quarter, we couldn’t keep them off the foul line, the game slowed down, they became the more physical team, and they just made more winning plays than us,” said Isaiah Thomas, who shot 3-of-15 from the field and had five turnovers.

Thomas (seven points, five assists) and Kyle Kuzma (eight points, 3-of-12) had uncharacteristically cold shooting nights, but the Lakers were able to keep afloat because of their big men.

Julius Randle had another impressive night in the post, racking up 23 points and nine rebounds before fouling out late.

Ivica Zubac provided one of the best games of his young career. In only 20 minutes, he poured in 19 points and 11 rebounds, while chipping in four put-back buckets on his way to an 8-of-8 night from the field.

“I just ran the floor, set hard screens, rolled hard and just did the little things,” he said.

Outside of the frontcourt, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope enjoyed one of his best games as a Laker, cobbling together 17 points, a career-high 11 rebounds and six assists while hitting three 3-pointers.

But L.A. had no answer for Taj Gibson, who went to work down low for a career-best 28 points on 11-of-16 shooting.

In addition to the 32-year-old’s dominant performance, the Wolves leaned on Jimmy Butler (24 points, 10 free throws) and Jeff Teague (20 points).

The Lakers actually led with 5:25 left when a Randle layup put them up by one. But from there, the Timberwolves (36-25) embarked on an 8-1 run featuring five free throws from Butler, who also assisted on an and-1 by Gibson.

L.A. (23-34) now returns home for the All-Star Break having lost its last three games.

After giving up 130-plus points in back-to-back contests, the defense was improved but not enough to capture the win for a fatigued team playing consecutive games.

Coach Luke Walton will give his players about a week off (returning to practice on Wednesday), and hopes to have point guard Lonzo Ball back in the fold after missing more than a month with a left MCL sprain.

IT | JR

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Notes
Before the game, the Timberwolves raised a banner for late coach Flip Saunders. … The Lakers had a 62-50 advantage in points in the paint. … L.A. shot just 1-of-13 on 3-pointers in the second half. … A crowd of 17,534 was on hand at Target Center.

Crunch time. #LakeShow

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