LOS ANGELES — Just about everything this season has been a grueling challenge for the Los Angeles Lakers, so no one wearing a gold jersey was surprised when Anthony Davis made a baffling mistake that allowed Minnesota’s Mike Connelly to snatch a playoff game from his hands. 0.1 second on the regulation clock.
The Lakers simply absorbed the last physical blow to their championship hopes and kept playing.
After five minutes of overtime, they finally called up a postseason berth that seemed out of reach just two months earlier.
LeBron James scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, and the Lakers finished seventh in the Western playoffs with a 108-102 victory over the Timberwolves in the NBA championship on Tuesday night.
Conley hit three free throws to tie it up after Davis foolishly missed a 3-point effort, but the Lakers continued to cruise toward their 10th win in 12 games overall. Their prize is a date with the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies in the first round, which starts on Sunday.
“He took everything from us to get to where we are, and he took more from us tonight,” said Davis. “But we have two days before we go to Memphis to start preparing for them. It’s been a battle. It’s been a choppy season for us, but now it’s time to show who we are, and we showed it tonight.”
Dennis Schroeder scored 21 points, holed a 3-point tiebreaker on a pass from James with 1.4 seconds left before edging the winning two free throws with 8.4 seconds left in overtime for the Lakers, who started the season 2-10 and sat six games below . Ultimate Trade.
“Once you get to the bottom of things, for everyone to be healthy, to play at the kind of tempo we play, to defend at the level we are defending, at the most important time of the year, you couldn’t ask for a better position,” Lakers coach Darvin Hamm said.
The Wolves forced overtime when Conley hit his free throws after Davis stomped on his foot after already shooting a 3-point attempt. Davis and James said they had a mix-up about who was supposed to defend the corner shooter.
“The play was between me and Al,” James said. “We still have five more minutes to play. So we started overtime. We were able to recalibrate. Get our game ready.”
Instead of going down, the Lakers got back into action.
“It was completely on me,” said Davis, who scored 24 points and 15 rebounds. “He faded out of bounds where I was going. But he got back into the mindset the next play, and we made it happen in overtime.”
Los Angeles finally won the defense, holding Wolves to seven points in the last 11 minutes midway through the fourth quarter as they rallied from a 15-point deficit.
Conley scored 23 points for Minnesota, giving an inspired first three-quarter effort while playing without starters Rudy Gobert and Jaden McDaniels. Gobert was suspended for punching teammate Kyle Anderson during Minnesota’s final regular season game against New Orleans, while McDaniels was out indefinitely with a broken hand after punching a wall in frustration Sunday.
Carl Anthony Towns scored 24 points for Wolverhampton, who will host New Orleans or Oklahoma City on Friday to occupy eighth place and start the first round date with first-seeded Denver on Sunday.
The Pelicans host the Thunder on Wednesday night, and Minnesota must then play off the winner to reach the playoffs for only the third time in 19 seasons.
“We expected to win this game,” Conley said. “It’s disappointing to lose. We had the initiative and we let it slip away. That should be a different post-game rhetoric. … We just have to be more engaged mentally and physically at the end, and we have a couple days to work on it.”
After driving for most of the night, Minnesota went scoreless for six full minutes in the fourth quarter. Los Angeles kicked off its comeback after Towns had to sit with his fifth foul, and topped the score nicely with a three-pointer on the opening possession of OT by Rui Hachimura, who had a 12-point lead.
The Wolves missed 11 straight shots before Anthony Edwards was dunked with 2:36 left in overtime. Edwards scored just nine points—more than 15 points below his average—and left the field briefly in the second half to get tape on his left shoulder after suffering an early fall.
Schroeder, returning from a two-game injury layoff, stepped up big for D’Angelo Russell, who had a terrible game for Los Angeles against the team he traded in February. Russell had eight assists, but scored two points on 1-of-9 shooting before being benched.
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