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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James scored 30 points as the Los Angeles Lakers muscled their way into the NBA playoffs on Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) with a thrilling come-from-behind 108-102 overtime victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers clinched seventh seed and advanced to a Western Conference first-round playoff series against the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies starting on Sunday after a pulsating duel at the Crypto.com Arena.
The Timberwolves will have a second chance to reach the postseason when they face either New Orleans or Oklahoma City on Friday where the eighth seeding in the Western Conference will be up for grabs.
New Orleans and Oklahoma City face each other on Wednesday to determine who advances to that game.
"This is what our sport is all about — getting to April and having an opportunity to play in the postseason," the 38-year-old James said after the win. "We've been battle-tested all year and since the All-Star break we've been playing some good basketball."
A nerve-jangling fourth quarter saw the Lakers battle back from a 10-point deficit to move to the brink of victory after James engineered a 3-pointer for German international Dennis Schroder to put Los Angeles 98-95 ahead with just 1.4 seconds remaining.
But as the home crowd prepared to celebrate, Anthony Davis was called for a rash foul on Mike Conley as the Timberwolves veteran attempted a desperate game-tying late 3-pointer.
Conley's effort missed but he duly stepped up to drain three free-throws under excruciating pressure to knot the game at 98-98 and force overtime.
Yet the Lakers regrouped to start overtime with a flurry of points, Rui Hachimura's 3-pointer and a Schroder layup putting Los Angeles five points clear at 103-98.
The Lakers kept their noses in front and after a missed 3-point attempt by Taurean Prince that could have tied it for Minnesota, the hosts closed out the win.
Agence France Presse