LOS ANGELES -- Their hearts were heavy and the death of Flip Saunders still weighed substantially on their minds. The Minnesota Timberwolves, though, willed themselves past the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.
Point guard Ricky Rubio scored a career-high 28 points and handed out 14 assists as the Timberwolves held on for an emotional 112-111 victory over the Lakers on at Staples Center.
The win came two days after Saunders, Minnesota's president and head coach, passed from complications of Hodgkin's lymphoma.
"Everybody went through a lot pain but we came in here and (fought), competed and tried to win a game," said Rubio, who made 10 of 17 shots from the floor. "I think the second unit did pretty good in the third quarter coming back. The defense, too. That started everything. Our defense was the key today."
Reserve guard Kevin Martin added 23 points for Minnesota (1-0), which rallied from a 16-point first-half deficit to capture the decision.
"It's been a tough three days for our whole team," said Martin, who scored 17 of his points in the second half. "I think we showed what our character is tonight. That was like one of the sweetest wins I've ever been a part of."
Rookie center and top draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns debuted with 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves.
"I got a little more aggressive as the game went along. I was just happy I was able to contribute to the team's success," said Towns, who hit six of 10 shots. "It's amazing with how our week has gone."
Lakers guard Lou Williams missed a potential game-winning shot just before the final horn, allowing the Timberwolves to prevail.
"It was a great shot," said Lakers forward Kobe Bryant, who finished with a team-high 24 points. "It was Lou's shot. It just didn't go in."
Bryant kicked off his NBA-record 20th campaign by scoring 24 points to lead the Lakers (0-1). Bryant, who surpassed former Utah Jazz point guard John Stockton's mark of 19 consecutive seasons with the same club, managed just 8-of-24 shooting and missed 10 of 13 3-point attempts.
"I felt good but my shots didn't go in in the fourth quarter," said Bryant who missed all five attempts in the final period and made just 2-of-11 overall in the second half. "My timing will come back but I felt good."
Williams scored 21 points, forward Julius Randle had 15 and guards Nick Young, who converted a 41-foot 3-pointer to end the first quarter, and Jordan Clarkson finished with 14 apiece.
"We just got to put our foot down and bring that killer instinct," Clarkson said.
Rubio gave the Timberwolves the lead at 101-99 on a jumper with 6:11 remaining, capping a 19-6 surge. After a free throw by guard Andrew Wiggins, Clarkson's bucket pulled Los Angeles within one. Minnesota increased its cushion to nine points after a 3-pointer by forward Nemanja Bjelica with 2:13 left but the Lakers rallied.
A free throw by Clarkson with a minute left cut the deficit to 112-108 before Williams buried a 3-pointer with 31.6 seconds to slice the margin to one.
After Martin misfired on a jumper with 8.6 seconds remaining, the Lakers called timeout on their final possession. Williams, though, couldn't convert a runner in the lane.
"When I let it go, I thought it was a bucket," Williams said. "It's a routine play for me -- three or four feet from the rim, float it over a seven-footer. I thought it was a good shot."
Forward Shabazz Muhammad was the only other Minnesota player to score in double figures with 10 points.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver attended the game and spoke to the Timberwolves in their locker room before the contest.
NOTES: Interim coach Sam Mitchell said he was trying to keep his club focused after the death of Timberwolves president and coach Flip Saunders. "Coach loved this game. He played it, coached it on all levels and he loved it," Mitchell said. "The best way to honor him is to just play as hard as you can and play as a team. The rest will take care of itself." ... Both clubs shot well from the free-throw line, with the Lakers converting 32-of-35 attempts (91.4 percent) to 31-of-37 (83.8 pecent) for the Timberwolves. Lakers C Roy Hibbert hit all 10 of his free throws. ... This is the first time in the common draft era (since 1966) that the No. 1 (Timberwolves C Karl-Anthony Towns) and No. 2 picks (Lakers G D'Angelo Russell) met in a regular-season opener, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. ... Both teams resume play Friday. The Timberwolves visit the Denver Nuggets, while the Lakers travel to Sacramento to play the Kings
By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
Publish Date: October 29, 2015 01:34:59 AM
Rubio-led Timberwolves pull out emotional win over Lakers
|All Times Eastern|