LeBron James had a big night as he carried the Los Angeles Lakers through to the NBA playoffs with a 108-102 overtime win against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Play-In.
Despite being in year 20 of his career, the four-time MVP has continued to dominate games and put up 30 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in the comeback win.
The Lakers have had a topsy-turvy 2022/23 season and their performance in this game encapsulated their rollercoaster year.
The Timberwolves started well and took control of the game early in the first quarter. They kept their grip on the game in the second and, despite the Lakers attempts to rally back, Minnesota took a healthy lead into halftime.
Led by Karl-Anthony Towns’ all-around game and Kyle Anderson’s playmaking, the Timberwolves led by 11 points at the break.
The lead grew to as much as 15 points in the third quarter and the Lakers were staring down the barrel of defeat and having to play another play-in game.
However, with LeBron on the court, there is always hope and – combined with Dennis Schröder’s brilliant impact from the bench – the 38-year-old led the rally with 11 third-quarter points.
It was then all about defense as the Lakers suffocated the Timberwolves in the clutch.
Minnesota struggled to make anything happen on the offensive end and even went on a six-minute, fourth-quarter drought – allowing the Lakers to take the lead with just 1.4 seconds left on the clock.
As ever with this Lakers squad, you never know what will happen next, and after being fouled by Anthony Davis, Mike Conley drained three free throws to send the game to OT.
The Lakers didn’t let the near fumble distract them from the task at hand and rallied again in overtime to secure their place in the playoffs.
James and Co. will now square up against Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies in what should be an incredibly exciting first-round playoff match-up.
Speaking after the game, Lakers coach Darvin Ham was pleased with his side’s resilience in the second half.
Ham said post-game: “Once you get to the end of things, to have everyone healthy, to be playing in the type of rhythm we’re playing in, to defend at the level that we’re defending at, going into the most important time of the year, you can’t ask for a better situation.”
The Timberwolves will have to get back to the drawing board after missing out on a good opportunity to seal their spot in the playoffs. They go again Friday against the winner of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the New Orleans Pelicans.
Minnesota fans will be hoping that Anthony Edwards will be able to bounce back from an uncharacteristically poor night – the 21-year-old went 3-for-17 from the field in a dreadful shooting display.
Over in the East, the Atlanta Hawks got the better of the Miami Heat to seal their place in the playoffs; Trae Young led the Hawks with 25 points to lead them into a first-round series against the Boston Celtics.