LOS ANGELES -- Rookie guard Zach LaVine scored 18 of his team-high 28 points off the bench in the second quarter, and Mo Williams had 25 points and 11 assists to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves over the Los Angeles Lakers 120-119 on Friday night. Kobe Bryant missed a 3-pointer as time expired that helped seal the win for Minnesota.
LaVine, the 13th overall pick in the draft out of UCLA, played 25 minutes in his Staples Center debut and made 11 of 14 shots. He was the fifth and last player off the Timberwolves bench as they snapped a three-game losing streak.
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 or fewer points.
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Lakers had circled this one on the schedule. Yes, Friday night felt like a contest they should definitely win, which isn’t something they’ll be able to say much this season, especially in the Western Conference. Between the West’s bottom two teams, the game came down to the final shot. The Lakers had the ball, and, naturally, they went to Kobe Bryant. Simply put, Bryant missed, and the Lakers fell to 3-14, the Timberwolves improved to 4-10.
Play of the game: The Lakers had the ball with 2.8 seconds left, and Bryant had a good look, a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Andrew Wiggins was on him, but the 19-year-old rookie, who was 1-year-old when Bryant made his NBA debut, gave Bryant some room. The Staples Center crowd was on its feet, and Bryant's shot was straight on, but it hit the front of the rim. Bryant finished with 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting in 35 minutes.
Player of the game: Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine was spectacular. He scored a game-high 28 points on 11 of 14 shooting in 25 minutes off the bench. The UCLA product topped his previous high of 13 points and showcased his outstanding vertical leap by basically flying to the basket on several occasions.
Matchup of the game: Top overall draft pick Wiggins guarded Bryant for most of the night and was embarrassed on more than a few occasions, with Bryant picking his pocket for easy baskets. Wiggins wasn’t effective on offense, either, as he finished with just 3 points on 1 of 6 shooting in 30 minutes. Still, his team got the win.
Stat of the night: Mo Williams made 6 of 8 from beyond the arc for Minnesota. The Los Angeles Lakers made 8 3-pointers as a team. Williams finished with 25 points and 11 assists for the Timberwolves.
Each week, ESPN.com Lakers beat writer Baxter Holmes, along with ESPN.com NBA writers Ramona Shelburne and Arash Markazi, will weigh in on three questions that are on the minds of Los Angeles Lakers followers.
1. Is there any potential downside to having Kobe Bryant sit out practices so he can play more in games?Holmes: None that really matter. From fans to television viewers to season-ticket holders to corporate sponsors, Lakers coaches and teammates, everyone is better served if Bryant is in the best position to play well when the lights are on. Given his age and mileage, rest is what's best for him right now. If that means he misses a few practices, or even most of them, then it's for the greater good.
Markazi: In the immortal words of Allen Iverson, "Practice? We're talking about practice?" I don't think there's any downside to Kobe sitting out practices. He wasn't participating in all the practices during training camp, and I didn't expect him to participate in all of them during the season. Bryant is getting paid $25 million per season to play in all 82 games, sell out arenas and draw eyeballs to the television. Whether or not he practices in between doesn't really matter and won't affect the Lakers' fate this season.
2. Is Kobe being honest with himself when he says the contract discount he took was enough for the Lakers to be a contender?
Shelburne: In his mind he is. Others may have a different opinion. But Kobe has seen the Lakers go very deep into the luxury tax to field a championship contender (as recently as 2012-13) and has no reason to think they wouldn't do so again if the opportunity to acquire championship-caliber players presented itself. The thing is, the opportunity hasn't presented itself recently.
Markazi: Not totally. I mean, yes, he technically took a pay cut and, yes, the Lakers could have offered a max contract last offseason and will be in position to next offseason, but if Kobe had taken a deal similar to what Dirk Nowitzki accepted, the Lakers could have lured two big-name free agents as opposed to one and could have quickly positioned themselves as a contender. As it is, no big-name free agent wants to join the Lakers' rebuild with Kobe alone, and, therefore, their rebuild might not be able to fully take shape until Kobe retires.
3. On the heels of Xavier Henry's season-ending injury, is the Lakers' rash of injuries the past few seasons anything more than bad luck?Holmes: It is bad luck, but it is a pretty startling streak of bad luck. I mean, losing three players to season-ending health issues and we're not even one month into the season? Lakers coach Byron Scott said he's never seen anything like it. They might want to start bubble-wrapping their players just to be on the safe side.
Markazi: It's certainly bad luck, but at some point, it wouldn't be a bad idea to take a look at how the training staff is doing things in comparison to, say, the Phoenix Suns. Leading the league in players missing games because of injuries in consecutive seasons is a tag no training staff wants, and once it becomes a trend, it might be time to take a closer look at how players are being treated. If it was just Kobe and Steve Nash, you could chalk it up to age, but when you add Julius Randle, Nick Young, Ryan Kelly and Henry, it becomes a bigger problem.
LOS ANGELES -- Marc Gasol had 19 points and 11 rebounds, Mike Conley added 19 points and the Memphis Grizzlies held off the Los Angeles Lakers 99-93 Wednesday night for their seventh victory in eight games.
Zach Randolph scored 16 points for the Grizzlies, who improved to 13-2 and kept pace with Toronto atop the overall NBA standings. But Western Conference-leading Memphis barely survived a strong effort from the 15th-place Lakers, who kept it close throughout a tense fourth quarter.
Coming off back-to-back 30-point games, Gasol scored 16 points in the second half, including 12 in the third quarter while the Grizzlies moved ahead.
Kobe Bryant scored 22 points for the Lakers, who have lost seven of nine. Los Angeles dropped to 1-7 at Staples Center.
Player of the game: Memphis’ Marc Gasol, who by the way has completely transformed his body a la Kevin Love, finished with 19 points on five of 10 shooting, adding 11 rebounds, four assists, three blocks and two steals. The 2007 Laker draft pick sank nine of 10 free throws and was excellent in many facets of the game.
Stat of the night: As to be expected with Gasol and Zach Randolph, the Grizzlies outscored the Lakers 46-32 in the paint, which was really the only number on the stat sheet that was all that lopsided.
Kobe Bryant update: He played 13 minutes without taking a shot, then turned up in the second half, scoring 10 points in the third quarter. But Bryant again struggled late. He shot four of 10 through the first three quarters but just one of five in the fourth. He finished with 22 points in 36 minutes.
Popovich also is expected to miss Friday's home game against Sacramento. Assistant Ettore Messina is running the team in Popovich's absence.
"It's not what you want, but the good thing is that obviously it's nothing big or you would not see me here so relaxed," Messina said before Wednesday's win.
Popovich, 65, is in his 18th season as head coach of the Spurs.
Messina became the first European-born coach to run an NBA team in the regular season. Referred to by many as the "Coach Pop of Europe," Messina is in his first season with the Spurs after a successful international career.
"Obviously, he's an international basketball legend," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said before the game. "I don't really know that much more about him other than he's highly, highly respected."
Messina is a two-time Euroleague coach of the year, and has coached in Russia, Italy and Spain. He served as a coaching consultant for the Los Angeles Lakers in 2011-12.
"Everybody here tells me from day one to feel very comfortable," Messina said of San Antonio.
In recent seasons, his name was raised as a candidate to become the first European coach to become a head coach in the NBA.
David Blatt beat him to it, coming over from Israel this year to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Blatt is American born.
LOS ANGELES -- In the wake of their third player being lost to a season-ending injury, the Los Angeles Lakers are working on finalizing a one-year, pro-rated veteran minimum deal with forward Earl Clark, league sources confirmed to ESPNLosAngeles.com.
Clark, who started 36 games with the Lakers in the 2012-13 season, has been averaging nearly 29 points per game in four appearances with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers of the NBA Development League.
Clark's arrival would come after the Lakers (3-11) lost reserve swingman Xavier Henry to a season-ending Achilles injury earlier this week. Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg) are also out for the season, and Ryan Kelly (hamstring) is currently sidelined with a hamstring tear.
Lakers coach Byron Scott said Tuesday that team officials were in contact with the league office about applying for a hardship exception from the NBA to add a 16th player to the roster, one more than the regular-season maximum. Once Kelly returns, the Lakers would need to trim their roster back down to 15.
The Lakers have already been granted two disabled player exceptions this season, one each for Randle ($1.5 million) and Nash ($4.8 million). The team can use the exception to sign or trade for a player, but the exceptions, which expire March 10, cannot be combined.
RealGM first reported on the Lakers and Clark working on a possible reunion.