LOS ANGELES -- The bottom two teams in the Western Conference tussled at Staples Center on Friday night. The Los Angeles Lakers held a better record than the Minnesota Timberwolves entering the game, though not by much, and that’s more or less how it played out on the scoreboard -- the Lakers winning, but not by too much -- 106-98.
The Lakers snapped a five-game losing streak and improved to 21-58 while the Timberwolves fell to 16-63.
The Lakers have the league’s fourth-worst record and will almost certainly finish in that spot with three regular-season games left in 2014-15, meaning the Lakers will an 82.8 percent chance of retaining their top-five protected 2015 first-round pick.
If that pick falls outside the first five picks during the May 19 draft lottery, it goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, who acquired the pick from Phoenix at the trade deadline.
Turning point: The Lakers used a 15-3 run to open the second half, giving them a 67-50 lead. It was pretty much over from there, save for a few tense moments down the stretch.
Player of the game: Timberwolves rookie Andrew Wiggins continued his strong season, as the 2014 top overall draft pick finished with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists and several high-flying dunks. He made 15 of 16 free throws.
Lakers player of the game: This goes to two players, former University of Missouri teammates Jordan Clarkson and Jabari Brown. The rookie guards looked like they had plenty of fun out there, with Clarkson going for 18 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds while Brown finished with 20 points, 7 assists and 3 rebounds.
Stat of the night: The Lakers tallied a season-high 35 assists on 41 made field goals. Their previous high for assists was 31 in a Dec. 30 win over the Denver Nuggets.
Second stat of the night: For the first time in what seems like forever, the Lakers outscored their opponent from beyond the 3-point line, hitting 9 of 23 from long range while the Timberwolves hit 3 of 15.
Notes: The Lakers and Timberwolves entered the game as the top two teams in the NBA with games missed because of injury or illness. The Lakers lead the league in that category (312) while the Timberwolves ranked second (292). So it’s not surprising that a total of six rookies were in the starting lineup Friday ... Jeremy Lin sat out for the second straight game because of a sore left knee ... Lakers rookie center Tarik Black finished with a career-high 18 points to go along with 10 rebounds. Ryan Kelly had 21 points and seven assists.
Up next: The Lakers host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday at Staples Center.