James, Monk help Lakers edge Timberwolves 108-103

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James scored 26 points, Malik Monk added 22 and the Los Angeles Lakers hung on to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 108-103 on Sunday night for the first time in three meetings this season.

A couple of streaks came to an end in the Lakers’ first game of the new year: James’ run of seven straight games with at least 30 points and Russell Westbrook’s stretch of four straight triple-doubles. Westbrook finished with 20 points, three rebounds, five assists and nine of the Lakers’ 28 turnovers.

“We did a good job of holding our own, gutting it out,” said Westbrook, who had just one turnover in the second half.

Naz Reid led the Wolves with season highs of 23 points, making 10 of 17 from the floor, and 11 rebounds, the first 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds effort of his career. Jaylen Nowell added 17 points off the bench.

The Lakers (19-19) climbed back to .500, with their 30-something veterans carrying them in the fourth quarter. Carmelo Anthony scored five in a row to help erase a four-point deficit. Clinging to a one-point lead in the final minutes, Anthony hit a 3-pointer, got fouled and made the free throw. He finished with 14 points.

“He’s done a great job for us all year,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s brought a great deal of basketball integrity to our team, making sure guys are playing the right way offensively.”

Asked his definition of basketball integrity, Anthony joked, “Frank be using words.”

Then Anthony explained that it’s about his love of the game.

“It’s my commitment to the game and being better to myself and my teammates,” he said. “That role is going to change night in and night out. I’m still motivated.”

Avery Bradley beat the shot clock to extend the Lakers’ lead to 105-100. Monk made one basket in the fourth — a 3-pointer — as the only Laker under age 30 to score in the period.

The Lakers ended last year with a 33-point rout of Portland only to start the new year being challenged throughout by the Wolves, who dropped their third in a row and fifth of six.

“We’re playing good basketball of late,” James said. “Even with some of the losses we’ve had, we’re still trending in the right direction.”

The Wolves won the teams’ first two meetings by 24 and 18 points, with James missing the second game.

Anthony Edwards scored 18 points for the Wolves in his return from reconditioning after being in COVID-19 protocols.

The teams traded leads throughout the fourth, with neither leading by more than seven. The Lakers got sloppy down the stretch. James lost the ball while double-teamed down low.

But they caught a few breaks, too. The Wolves were limited to one basket by Edwards in the final minute after he missed others and turned the ball over late.

“We’re not here solely just to develop talent,” Wolves coach Chris Finch said. “We’re trying to win these games.”

Malik Beasley and Patrick Beverley hit back-to-back 3-pointers as part of an 8-0 run early in the third that gave Minnesota a six-point lead.

The Lakers ran off 10 straight points, including five by Monk, to take a 76-72 lead. But the Wolves closed on an 8-2 spurt to lead 80-78 going into the fourth.

The Lakers blew all of a 10-point lead in the second, allowing a 9-0 run by the Wolves that tied it 45-all. Reid scored 11 points in the quarter, including back-to-back dunks, and his three-point play left the Wolves trailing 57-54 at the break.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are close to getting out of the league’s health and safety protocols and could return later this week.

Lakers: James played in his 1,336th NBA game, passing Gary Payton for 16th on the career list. … Rajon Rondo is inactive and wasn’t with the team. The four-time All-Star guard is expected to be shipped to Cleveland in exchange for guard Denzel Valentine once the deal is approved by the NBA.

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Stay in LA to play the Clippers on Monday and complete the back-to-back.

Lakers: Host Sacramento on Tuesday.

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