MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jimmy Butler hit five of Minnesota’s eight 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to finish with 32 points and help the Timberwolves hang on to beat LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers 124-120 on Monday night.
Karl-Anthony Towns pitched in with 25 points, a season-high 16 rebounds and four blocks for the Timberwolves, who played some clutch defense just in time to fend off a late push from James. The four-time MVP had 10 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter after missing his first five shots of the night.
James added 10 rebounds and seven assists on the 15th anniversary of his professional debut. With the Lakers trailing 119-117 inside the 2-minute mark after Brandon Ingram blocked Butler’s shot, however, James dribbled at the top of the key with Towns guarding him and lost the ball into the backcourt.
Ingram came back strong from his four-game suspension with 24 points for the Lakers. Kyle Kuzma, after scoring 11 points in the first five minutes, had only eight more over the rest of the night.
Josh Okogie, starting at shooting guard for Minnesota in place of the injured Andrew Wiggins, had a career-high 17 points.
Anthony Tolliver was perfect on four shots from the floor for the Timberwolves, including a 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter for a 96-94 lead. Butler’s back-to-back swishes from behind the arc pushed the lead to 114-107. He added one more to make it 122-117, before a corner miss by James.
The Lakers went with a new starting lineup to maximize their length, sliding the 6-foot-9 Ingram back to the shooting guard spot and flanking James with the sharpshooting Kuzma at power forward. They entered the night with a league-leading 22 percent of their points coming on fast breaks, and the pace from both sides was predictably fast. The teams combined for 23 turnovers and 15 steals in the first half, plus four technical fouls.
The Wolves were ahead by as many as eight points early, but while their arms were plenty active on blocks and deflections, they don’t have a defense strong enough yet to build a comfortable lead. Butler grabbed a rebound of Kuzma’s missed 3-pointer at the end of the second quarter and dished to Jeff Teague, who took the risk of another pass to Taj Gibson and watched the big man drop in a layup at the buzzer for a 66-all tie.
Lakers: Backup forward Michael Beasley was away from the team to tend to a personal matter. He has only appeared in three games, logging a total of 10 minutes. He’s with his seventh different team in his 11th NBA season. … The largest lead for the Lakers, 90-85, came on Lance Stephenson’s 3-pointer with 3:28 left in the third quarter.
Timberwolves: Wiggins took part in the morning shootaround but was held out for the third straight game with the strained right quadriceps that stopped his consecutive regular-season games played streak at 243.
Lakers: Host the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night.
Timberwolves: Host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night.