LOS ANGELES – How Anthony Edwards looked postgame personified the state of the Timberwolves.
Edwards had ice packs on both his knees, and one on his right hand. He played through the fourth quarter with tape on his left shoulder after cartwheeling over Lakers forward Rui Hachimura in the third quarter.
The bruised and battered — recently of their own doing — Timberwolves just flat out couldn't score down the stretch of a 108-102 overtime loss to the Lakers on Tuesday at Crypto.com Arena. The NBA play-in game turned into a brick-laying contest for both teams in the final minutes of regulation.
Unfortunately for the Wolves, they clanked more shots thanks to ineffective offense than the Lakers, who erased a 15-point Wolves lead in the second half to advance to the playoffs.
The Lakers grabbed the No. 7 seed and will face Memphis in the first round while the Wolves will get one more crack at making the playoffs at home Friday, when they will face the winner of New Orleans-Oklahoma City, who play Wednesday.
"I'm never one for moral victories, but we played really well," forward Kyle Anderson said. "We played well. We had a tough time scoring down the stretch obviously. We got to get that figured out, but I think we played really well on both sides of the ball. We made them work. We just came up a little short."
The Wolves were still in position to win even without center Rudy Gobert, who the team suspended for punching Anderson during Sunday's win over the Pelicans; Jaden McDaniels, who broke his hand punching a wall in the same game; and Naz Reid, who fractured his wrist March 29. But they shot just 5-for-23 in the fourth quarter and overtime.
Edwards, who didn't talk to the media before the team closed the locker room, had a particularly tough night in going 3-for-17 and nine points.
"We got stagnant," coach Chris Finch said. "We ran out of gas, we got tired, for sure. We kinda stopped cutting, the ball dried up, a lot of holding. The obvious things that you saw, and then that was basically it."
Mike Conley, who had 23 points, did all he could to keep the Wolves in it, including hitting three huge free throws to tie the game in regulation with 0.1 seconds remaining. He also came up with a steal and hit an open Taurean Prince for a corner three in overtime for a chance to tie the game, but Prince's three missed.
"We expected to win the game," Conley said. "We didn't come in to think that we just want to play tight and give ourselves a chance. We thought we could win the game from the first jump ball. It's disappointing to lose. We got a lead and let it slip. This should be a different postgame speech so that's frustrating."
Wolves center Karl-Anthony Towns had 24 points, but didn't score in the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Wolves' main point of contention on Tuesday was how officials called the game. They weren't happy with a 17-3 advantage in free throws for the Lakers in the second half. They also weren't happy with how Towns was officiated. He went to the bench with five fouls with 9 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the fourth.
"He was in a heck of a rhythm until they whistled him to the bench," Finch said. "That was tough. We just never really had an offense from anywhere. He played a really good game."
He checked back in with 7:35 to play, but he wasn't the same version of the player that was there the first three quarters. By his admission, he played more tentative because he didn't want to foul out, and that affected his offensive game.
"Throughout the game I was doing a good job attacking the rim, being really powerful getting to the rim, doing whatever I do," Towns said. "When you get two fouls off flops, it makes it very difficult with five fouls to do something like that, or want to put my team in a bad position where I make an aggressive move, and they flop, they get the call and I'm out the game."
The Wolves' offense was running in quicksand over the final six minutes of the game. The Lakers weren't exactly lighting the scoreboard either, but they finally tied the game when LeBron James (30 points) hit a three with two minutes, two seconds remaining in regulation. The teams traded poorly-executed empty possessions until Dennis Schroder hit a three with 1.3 seconds remaining. Schroder had 21 points as former Wolves point guard D'Angelo Russell struggled to a 1-for-9 night and sat most of the important minutes.
But Conley, the player the Wolves got when they traded Russell, wouldn't let the Wolves go quietly. Anthony Davis (24 points, 15 rebounds) fouled Conley with 0.1 seconds remaining on a corner three, and Conley stepped to the line and sank all three free throws in a clutch moment that would have gone down in Wolves history had they won.
"After that first one went in, it calmed down a little bit," Conley said. "I took a couple of deep breaths and now I'm locked in on the next two."
Said Davis: "That was totally on me. He faded out of bounds where I was going. But it goes back to next-play mentality, and we got it done in overtime."
Conley's free throws were the only points the Wolves scored in a span of 8:25 between the fourth quarter and overtime, when the Lakers jumped out to a five-point lead.
After hitting 13-for-27 from three-point range in the first three quarters, the Wolves were 3-for-14 the rest of the night. Conley pinned the issues on the Lakers' switching scheme.
"They got to switching one through five and made it tough on us to get the ball to KAT in positions he could be effective," Conley said. "Ant didn't have a great rhythm and it forced us into taking some tough shots. The ball kind of stuck a little bit more than it had in the first three quarters."
Anderson didn't want to say fatigue was a factor, but in the same breath, he said it was, while Finch lamented that he might've been able to go to his bench more down the stretch. Instead, he stuck with the starters.
"You never want to think that," Anderson said of the fatigue. "You never want to give into that during the game obviously. I guess you could say it did. I don't know, it's tough. You don't want to admit that. We worked so hard, but a few soldiers down, so you can kind of say that."
The Wolves will get one soldier back in Gobert on Friday, when everything will be on the line.