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Lakers too much for Timberwolves, 112-104

By Chris Hine
Star Tribune/TNS
The Los Angeles Lakers' Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (1) sets a pick for the Minnesota Timberwolves' Jarred Vanderbilt (8) as teammate LeBron James dribbles past during the first quarter at Target Center in Minneapolis on Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. The Lakers won, 112-104.

MINNEAPOLIS - It has been over a year and the D'Angelo Russell-Karl Anthony Towns chapter of the Timberwolves hasn't been able to get off the ground fully.

The tandem have played just five games with each other since Russell came to the Wolves in a trade over a year ago, and on Tuesday the Wolves learned takeoff will be delayed again at least another four to six weeks as Russell needs arthroscopic surgery to repair a "loose body" in his left knee.

The upshot of Russell being out is it means rookie Anthony Edwards gets to have the ball in his hands a lot more than he might otherwise with Russell on the floor - and maybe he can develop chemistry with Towns. Edwards had the ball in his hands plenty during the Wolves' 112-104 loss to the Lakers.

But try as Edwards might - and he certainly did during an electric second half - the defending champion Lakers, even though they were without the injured Anthony Davis, were just too deep and too talented.

LeBron James spearheaded the attack with 30 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists, but the Lakers also got 24 from Dennis Schroder and 17 off the bench from Montrezl Harrell. Edwards had 28 for the Wolves while Towns had 15. Malik Beasley finished with 11 on 4-of-15 shooting.

The Lakers gave the Wolves an opening early in the form of 10 first-quarter turnovers, and the Wolves were up to the challenge. Edwards scored seven early as he had the ball in his hands plenty from the start.

But Towns would get in foul trouble later in the quarter as he picked up his second on a questionable call for bumping Harrell.

The Wolves had just seven points off those 10 Lakers turnovers and when Los Angeles wasn't turning the ball over they were hitting: they shot 12 of 16 in the quarter.

As the Lakers staggered James' minutes, Timberwolves coach Ryan Saunders decided to let his bench ride against James and the Lakers' bench.

But the reserves held their own. The Lakers led 30-27 to start the second quarter with James still in the game. When he checked out at the 7:09 mark the Wolves led 45-44. The bench had stared down The King and survived, momentarily.

Then the Wolves' starters came back in following James' departure and surged ahead 52-44 on a Beasley 3-pointer, his only field goal of the half.

But James wasn't done for the half - he came back in with 3:37 to play and the Lakers chipped away at the Wolves' lead and closed the half on a 9-2 run to take a 57-56 lead at halftime. James had 18 in the half while Towns had 13.

The Lakers couldn't extend that lead in the third as Edwards had some fun in the third quarter. He smiled back at Lakers center Marc Gasol after taking him to the basket for a layup. Then smiled his way back down the floor after nailing a 3 over James. The Wolves led 77-73 after Towns fed Edwards for a layup.

Again Saunders stuck with the reserves playing against the Lakers reserves plus James to close out the third.

This time the Lakers closed with a 9-3 run to take an 86-84 lead headed into the fourth. That's when they got separation.

James proved nearly impossible for the Wolves to guard early in the fourth and got a three-point play chance after rookie Jaden McDaniels grabbed a hold of James on a layup attempt. He made it anyway. The Lakers led 98-89, their largest lead of the night, when Saunders inserted Towns back in with just over eight minutes left. But the Lakers were on a roll. A Harrell steal and layup coupled with a Wesley Matthews 3 push the lead to 103-89. Edwards tried to will the Wolves back and he nearly got there, cutting the deficit to five with three fourth-quarter 3s, but the Wolves couldn't make it all the way back.