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With their playoff lives at stake, Darvin Ham challenges Lakers’ effort and urgency

Perhaps it was how it happened that Darvin got Ham going, the Lakers head coach was clearly disappointed not only in his team’s loss, but in the overall approach.

“Energy, commitment and urgency – we have those words written on our plate,” said Ham. “We need to know what the circumstances are. It’s no reason, no excuse for us to come out and not have that against a team that we’re competing against to try and get a (playoff) spot. You saw how they played. They were in our chest all night. There were times, right up to the end, when we woke up and got aggressive, it seemed like we were on our heels.

“And we can’t have that, especially when you’re in the position we’re in and trying to get where we’re trying to get.”

It was clear to Ham on Friday after his team’s 110-102 loss to the Timberwolves that the Lakers weren’t going to get anywhere this way.

It was a harsh criticism, as no one could reasonably expect the Lakers to win every remaining game on their schedule, regardless of urgency. In the locker room, there was some resistance to the idea that this loss was down to effort or urgency (energy, on the other hand, was no doubt an occasional issue with the Lakers coming off a three-game trip).

Instead, some players pointed to Minnesota’s size and better shooting night as reasons why the Lakers couldn’t win – the team was smothered in the second and third quarters when they scored just 42 points combined.

“You know, I thought we were a little disturbed. We have to anticipate that they will come out like this. We must meet aggression with aggression,” Ham said. “I thought too many times we got caught up in playing east-west instead of just keeping our heads down and attacking the basket, going to the paint, alive at the free throw line. When teams are that aggressive, you have to play downhill.

The Lakers certainly missed D’Angelo Russell, who would have helped take much of the pressure off Minnesota with his shots and ball handling.

Russell missed four straight games after stepping on Donte DiVincenzo’s foot on an inbound pass early in the Lakers’ victory against Golden State to start the post All-Star push.

With Russell’s free agency coming up this summer, the Lakers really need to take a look at the former No. 2 pick to see if he can be a reliable partner with Anthony Davis and LeBron James – durability is a necessity alongside that pair.

The Lakers severely missed Russell’s shots and playmaking. On Friday, Dennis Schroder left as the primary ball handler, playing after injuring an ankle while being chased by Jaden McDaniels – one of the best defensemen in the league.

Schroder struggled to make just three of 13 shots from the field, though he had 12 assists with no turnovers.

It was the kind of performance that wrapped up Friday’s game, some bad and not enough good in a loss that cost the Lakers a chance to make a move against a team they’re chasing.

“I feel like we played hard,” Davis said. “We had some stretch on both ends of the floor during the game, especially in the third quarter. Whether it was a turnover, a bad shot, a mistake on the defense. But just went out and joined in. … I just stretched them where it’s the story of the game. At this point we should be stuck for the full 48. We can’t have those abuses that essentially cost us tonight’s game.’

Lakers forward Anthony Davis, right, attempts to drive past Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels during Friday’s first half.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The Lakers (30-34) are one game behind Utah and New Orleans (31-33) for the final two postseason berths, potentially further frustrating Ham.

“I’ve been doing this for 26 years,” he said. “Multiple championships. Multiple trips as a player and coach into the post season. If someone needs to tell you to be locked up… We play basketball for a living. Someone shouldn’t be telling you to be locked up. We play basketball. We get paid millions of dollars. We play basketball for a living, and it’s as little as an hour — sometimes 45 minutes — to 2½, 3 hours, whether it’s a practice, a shooting, or a game. A sport. We don’t dig trenches all day. We don’t build houses. We don’t build, we risk our lives. We do basketball for a living. And we’re playing for one of the most recognizable, historic franchises on the planet – most.

“If that doesn’t motivate you to go out and try to be the best version of yourself, then I don’t know what will. And we talk about it. And we throw ourselves into our players and try to make them better individually and collectively. And so we keep preaching it. We keep hammering on it until there’s no time left and no chance of us doing it. But until then we put our best foot forward every day. Believe me.”