Lakers, Hawks advance to NBA playoffs with play-in wins

by Jacob Fuller

Rob Issa, FISM News

Despite double-doubles from both of their biggest stars, the Los Angeles Lakers needed overtime to put away the pesky Minnesota Timberwolves and secure a playoff berth on Tuesday night.

LeBron James scored 30 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, Anthony Davis had 23 points and 15 boards and the Lakers beat the Timberwolves 108-102 in the Western Conference play-in tournament game Tuesday night.

The Lakers advance to face the No. 2 seed Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. The Timberwolves head home for another chance Friday night in a must-win game. They will host the winner of the Pelicans-Thunder play-in game.

“It took everything out of us to get to where we are, and it took more out of us tonight,” Davis said. “But we’ve got a couple of days before we go to Memphis to start preparing for them. It’s been a battle. It’s been an up-and-down season for us, but now is the time to show who we are, and we showed it tonight.”

The Lakers seemed headed for a victory in regulation when James drove to the basket and dished to Dennis Schröder, who hit a 3-pointer from the baseline for a 98-95 lead with 1.4 seconds remaining.

But Davis fouled Mike Conley on a 3 from the baseline that hit the side of the backboard. Conley calmly sank all three free throws with 0.1 seconds left on the clock to send it to overtime.

“I’ve been playing the game like that since I was a kid. I drew the defense and trusted my teammate,” James said about passing up the potential game-winning shot.

Davis overheard a smiling James joking about his foul messing up Schroder’s moment and gave an apology for his foul.

It was all smiles for the Lakers because the extra period went their way. Los Angeles hardly looked like a playoff contender for much of the season until a strong finish. The Lakers started 2-10 and were six games under .500 at the trade deadline before going 16-7 after the All-Star break to earn a shot in the play-in game.

“Once you get to the end of things, to have everyone healthy, to be playing in the type of rhythm we’re playing in, to defend at the level that we’re defending at, going into the most important time of the year, you can’t ask for a better situation,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said.

The Timberwolves will have star center Rudy Gobert back from a one-game suspension on Friday night.

“It’s disappointing to lose,” Conley said. “We had a lead and let it slip. This should be a different postgame speech. … We’ve just got to be mentally and physically more engaged at the end, and we’ve got a couple of days to work on it.”

HAWKS TOP HEAT TO ADVANCE

In Miami, the Heat are one loss from elimination following a 116-105 loss to the Atlanta Hawks in the NBA’s first play-in tournament game.

Trae Young scored 25 points and Clint Capela grabbed 21 rebounds to help the Hawks knock off Miami on the road to secure the No. 7 and a first-round matchup against the Boston Celtics.

The Heat, the East’s No. 1 seed last year, will host either the Toronto Raptors or Chicago Bulls in a win-or-go-home game Friday night.

“Come Friday, we have to play the legit exact opposite of how we played tonight,” Heat star Jimmy Butler said.

Kyle Lowry led Miami with 33 points, Tyler Herro scored 26 and Butler finished with 21.

“Nothing about this season has been easy,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We’re going to do this the hard way.”

The Hawks lost in five games in Round 1 to Miami last season.

“Our guys are trying to be the best version of ourselves at the end of the year,” said Hawks coach Quin Snyder, who was hired in late February. “The year’s not over. So hopefully we can take this and continue to build on it. It’s one game — but it was our game.”

Dejounte Murray added 18 points for the Hawks, who got 53 points combined from four reserves.

“We all understand the moment and the time of year it is,” Young said. “Credit our guys for being locked in, ready, and focused on the game plan.”

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