LOS ANGELES – To borrow a term from the game that gave name to the State of Hockey, you might say the Timberwolves played shorthanded in Sunday’s 110-109 loss to the Lakers at the buzzer.
On a night when young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins scored 81 of their points, the Wolves lost to the Lakers in dramatic fashion at Staples Center for the second time in little more than two weeks.
D’Angelo Russell’s three-point shot from the left corner that rattled off the rim and bounded skyward before dropping through the net just before the final buzzer won it.
“That’s a terrible way to lose,” Wiggins said.
Trailing by 16 points in the second quarter and leading 109-105 with 33 seconds left, the Wolves lost yet again in L.A. to a Lakers team that won its fourth consecutive game and probably should be losing to help assure it keeps a top-three lottery draft pick.
Instead, Russell’s three was the final difference on a night when he almost didn’t play because of the death of his grandmother, when veteran Metta World Peace was on the floor mostly as a farewell to L.A. near the end of his long career.
“I get goose bumps just talking about the way the game ended,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said.
Russell’s shot won a game in which Towns and Wiggins became the first pair in franchise history to each reach at least 40 points in a game.
They became the first teammates to do so since Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook scored 48 and Kevin Durant scored 43 against Orlando on Oct. 30, 2015.
That has happened only 13 times in NBA regular-season history.
“It doesn’t mean anything,” Towns said. “We went out there and got beat, so that history or those points don’t mean anything.”
Four Wolves players — Towns, Wiggins, Gorgui Dieng and Shabazz Muhammad – scored all but four of the team’s 109 points.
The Wolves’ four guards shot a combined 1-for-14. Ricky Rubio went 1-for-10 after he had scored a career-high 33 points against the Lakers at Target Center just 10 days earlier.
“You’ve got to make shots,” Thibodeau said.
Towns’ 41-point, 21-rebound game was the first 40/20 game in franchise history, and Wiggins’ 41 points were his fifth 40-point game this season and the 14th time he has scored 30 or more points this season.
None of it stood to mean anything after the Wolves lost that four-point lead in the final 33 seconds, after they allowed Lakers forward Julius Randle to corral an offensive rebound off World Peace’s missed three-pointer.
“Our offense wasn’t the problem,” Wiggins said. “We just need to get stops and cut down their offensive rebounds.”
Randle’s rebound was one of 12 offensive rebounds the Wolves allowed.
“You get what you deserve,” Thibodeau said. “We didn’t rebound the ball at the end. All you have to do is get one, one.”
Russell took Randle’s shovel pass and had enough time to launch a winning shot that got the bounce.
“That’s the worst way to lose, man,” Wiggins said. “But we dug ourselves a hole by allowing them to get the offensive rebound and have multiple shots at it.”
Rubio argued to officials that he had been fouled by Larry Nance Jr. on a drive to the basket with 10.8 seconds left. Rubio sprawled on the floor after driving to the basket, but play went on and the Lakers pushed the ball to the other end of the floor, sending up the winning sequence.
“It’s not just the last play,” Rubio said. “Overall, we didn’t play with an edge and we got what we deserved.”
Before Sunday’s game, Walton said he wouldn’t hesitate to change strategies against a player who formerly couldn’t shoot straight, but averaged 18.5 points in his last 15 games before Sunday.
This time, the Lakers held Rubio to two points on that 1-for-10 shooting.
“They were playing aggressive,” Rubio said.
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