With 1.4 seconds left, Los Angeles Lakers backup point guard Dennis Schroeder hit what appeared to be the game-winning shot in the fourth quarter over the Minnesota Timberwolves in the opening round of the NBA Play-In Tournament. The celebration was short-lived.
About a second later, Lakers star Anthony Davis fouled Wolves guard Mike Conley on a three-point attempt. Conley would sink all three free-throw shots to send the game into overtime.
In a game that, at times, appeared to be out of reach for the Lakers, the waning seconds of the fourth was a microcosm of the team’s performance in its lone Play-In game.
Down 11 at the half, it took extra time and 45 minutes from LeBron James and 42 minutes from Davis for the Lakers to eek out a 108-102 win over the short-handed Timberwolves.
James and Davis combined for 54 points, 25 rebounds and 10 assists. Karl-Anthony Towns led Minnesota with 24 points and 11 boards.
The win propelled the Lakers out of the Play-In Tournament and secured them the 7th seed in the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.
During the post-game interview, James jokingly called out Davis for spoiling Schroeder’s big moment.
“I’m sorry AD has a brain fart,” he joked on the TNT broadcast. AD appeared from beyond the screen to apologize to Schroeder, but the 29-year-old guard was just happy to be trusted in that spot.
“I had the same shot earlier this year and missed,” Schroeder told sideline reporter Allie LaForce.
The Lakers had a lot going in their favor as they attempted to secure a spot in the NBA Western Conference Playoffs.
The Lakers finished the regular season as the 7th seed in the Western Conference, meaning they had to defend their playoff spot in the Play-In Tournament, but they entered Tuesday’s contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves as heavy favorites.
Not only did the Lakers have home court advantage throughout the Play-In Tournament, but their opening game also came against a wounded Minnesota squad.
The Timberwolves were without their two most impactful defenders in 3-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert and versatile wing defender Jaden McDaniels.
Gobert was suspended by the team for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers after he punched teammate Kyle Anderson during a bench huddle in Sunday’s win over the New Orleans Pelicans.
The altercation resulted in Gobert being sent home for the rest of that game, which ended in a close win for the Timberwolves and kept their playoff hopes alive. Gobert has since apologized publicly and privately, but the organization opted to keep him away from the team for Tuesday’s Play-In matchup in Los Angeles.
McDaniels suffered a fractured hand during that same game against the Pelicans after he apparently punched a wall in an act of frustration. His timeline to return is unclear, but he is not expected to play at all in the Play-In Tournament.
As the top seed in the Play-In, the Lakers needed to only win one game to advance into the NBA Playoffs. Now they’ll enter the NBA Playoffs as the 7 seed and will face the Memphis Grizzlies Sunday, April 16 at noon.
With their loss against the Lakers Tuesday night, the Timberwolves will not head home to host the winner of the 9 vs. 10 seed matchup involving the Pelicans and the Oklahoma City Thunder. If they win that matchup, they’ll secure the 8th seed in the playoffs and a date with the 1-seeded Denver Nuggets. If they lose, their season is over.
Despite barely scraping by to get into a position to make the NBA postseason, the Lakers went 14-6 in March and April, buoyed by stellar performances by center Anthony Davis.
Even though his Tuesday will probably be remembered for his blunder, earlier in the day, Davis was named Western Conference Player of the Month. It was his third-career monthly honor, and his first as a member of the Lakers.