LOS ANGELES (AP) — Zach LaVine grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan. The first time he saw them play at in person at Staples Center, the Minnesota Timberwolves rookie outperformed everyone — including Kobe Bryant.
LaVine scored 18 of his team-high 28 points in the second quarter, and Mo Williams had 25 points and 11 assists to lead the Timberwolves to a 120-119 victory on Friday night. It wasn’t sealed until Bryant missed a 3-pointer as time expired.
“It was really cool coming back here and being able to play here. I was even playing against my childhood idol out there,” LaVine said. “I’m really surprised he missed that shot. That scared me at the end.”
LaVine, the 13th pick in the draft out of UCLA, played 25 minutes and made 11 of 14 shots. He was the fifth and last player off the bench for the Timberwolves, who snapped a three-game skid.
“I always wanted to come back and put a show on,” he said. “I know a lot of UCLA fans were here, and I know a lot of them are mad I came out (for the draft). But I’m a confident person and I like proving people wrong.
“I was just in the flow and running the floor hard. When any player feels like it’s going in, the hoop looks big. I was just throwing it up and it was going in.”
Coach Flip Saunders hasn’t treated LaVine with kid gloves just because of his rookie status, or his high draft status. The tough love Saunders has shown him has toughened him up.
“He’s going to coach me hard and be on my butt, but that’s because he wants me to be great. That’s all that I want from myself as well,” LaVine said. “My dad told me always told me: ‘If the coaches stop talking to you, that’s when they ain’t worried about you anymore.'”
Bryant finished with 26 points on 10 for 18 shooting, and Nick Young scored 13 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Wesley Johnson had 19 points against his former club, and Jeremy Lin had 18 points and 11 assists in the Lakers’ fourth straight loss. Seven of their 13 defeats this season have been by seven points or fewer.
“Frustration and anger is going through my head right now,” coach Byron Scott said. “We weren’t ready to play. There was a lack of focus. We looked at them like they were inferior to us.
“You can’t play good hard-nosed basketball one night, then look at the opponent the next night and say, ‘Oh, we have an easy one.’ It doesn’t work that way in this sport.”
Thaddeus Young had 22 points for the T-Wolves, who have been hit by a recent rash of injuries including Kevin Martin’s broken right wrist and Ricky Rubio’s sprained left ankle. Martin, the team’s leading scorer, is sidelined six to eight weeks after undergoing surgery. The club has gone is 1-3 in his absence. Rubio missed his ninth straight game.
Saunders used his eighth starting lineup in eight games and his 10th in 14 overall. Andrew Wiggins, the top pick in this year’s draft and the only player to start in every game, had three points in 30 minutes.
The Timberwolves, who trailed by as many as 11 points late in the first quarter, pulled ahead 101-100 on a 3-pointer by reserve forward Robbie Hummel with 8:07 to play. Nick Young then hit a 20-footer, a 3-pointer, two free throws and back-to-back dunks — in a 3:26 span — to put the Lakers ahead 115-107 with 5:03 remaining.
Williams’ consecutive 3-pointers tied it at 115 with 3:02 left. Bryant missed both free throws at the other end, and Thaddeus Young banked in a short hook shot to put Minnesota ahead 119-117.
Bryant tied it with a fade away 8-footer over Gorgui Dieng with 5.6 seconds on the clock before Young made one of two free throws after getting fouled by Nick Young with 2.8 seconds to go.
Johnson inbounded the ball to Bryant, who had a perfect look from the top of the 3-point arc, but the shot fell short.
Despite LaVine’s 7-minute shooting spree in the second quarter, Los Angeles led 58-54 at halftime with all of their starters except Jordan Hill getting at least nine points.
Bryant helped the Lakers build a 30-23 lead through one quarter with 12 points and three steals.
Timberwolves: They won three of the four meetings with the Lakers last season, including a 113-90 decision at Los Angeles in November that ended a string of 22 consecutive losses to them. … Reserve C Ronny Turiaf, who spent his first three NBA seasons with the Lakers, missed his 11th game because of a sore right hip.
Lakers: Bryant, who missed 76 games last season because of injuries, is 171 points away from surpassing Michael Jordan for third place on the NBA’s career scoring list.
Timberwolves: At Portland on Sunday.
Lakers: Host Toronto on Sunday.
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