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Short-handed Lakers set to face Timberwolves

Sportsnaut
Dec 15, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; The Los Angeles Lakers celebrate guard Austin Reaves (15) making a three point shot to defeat the Dallas Mavericks during overtime at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 15, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; The Los Angeles Lakers celebrate guard Austin Reaves (15) making a three point shot to defeat the Dallas Mavericks during overtime at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers will try to win four games in a row for the first time this season when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night at Minneapolis.

Los Angeles is coming off a 107-104 overtime win over the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, which included a game-winning 3-pointer from rookie Austin Reaves. The Lakers also have knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic during their winning streak.

Reaves’ adrenaline might still be pumping when he takes the court against Minnesota. Teammates mobbed him after the win, made possible by his 3-pointer from the right wing with exactly one second remaining on the clock.

It was the latest and greatest highlight in an improbable season for Reaves, who went undrafted out of Oklahoma but won a roster spot with the Lakers during training camp.

“I mean, it’s basically the story of my life,” said Reaves, who scored a career-high 15 points. “I’ve always been underrated. Didn’t go to a big high school, so didn’t get recruited much, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to produce on the basketball court. And for me to hit that shot, for my teammates to have the trust in me to take that shot, is very, very special.”

The mood was dampened Thursday with news that the Lakers’ starting backcourt of Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley were placed into COVID-19 protocols and are not expected to play Friday. They join teammates Talen Horton-Tucker, Dwight Howard and Malik Monk in protocols.

The Timberwolves will go for their third win in a row after notching back-to-back road victories over the Portland Trail Blazers and Denver Nuggets. Their latest win, a 124-107 decision over Denver, tied for the team’s second-highest point total this season.

Second-year standout Anthony Edwards was the Timberwolves’ top star in the Mile High City. He finished with 38 points on 14-of-21 shooting, including 10-of-14 from 3-point range.

Edwards, who is averaging 22.1 points per game this season, became the youngest player in NBA history to make 10 3-pointers in a game. The 20-year-old also became the fourth player in league history to record at least 2,000 points, 400 rebounds and 300 assists in his first 100 games — joining LeBron James, Blake Griffin and Luka Doncic.

Edwards smiled when a reporter asked him how much fun he was having on the court.

“I can’t even explain it,” Edwards said. “I’m just happy to be here. I went through a lot to be here. I just wake up every day with a smile on my face and I put the work in.”

Karl-Anthony Towns leads Minnesota with 24.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. Edwards is second on the team in scoring, and D’Angelo Russell is third with 18.8 points per contest.

James leads Los Angeles with 26.1 points per game to go along with 5.9 rebounds and 6.9 assists. Anthony Davis is next with 23.8 points and a team-high 10.2 rebounds.

James said he and his teammates remain confident despite an inconsistent start.

“It hasn’t gone as everyone else has hoped it would,” James said. “… We want to continue to work our habits, continue to do what we’ve got to do to be great every night. So, we are who we are as a team.

“We’ve got a lot of injuries, a lot of mixed lineups, obviously guys in protocols and false protocols, things of that nature. So we are what we are as a team right now, and we like where we’re at.”

–Field Level Media