The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off another blowout loss to their crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Clippers, losing by a score of 133-109. The defense was once again nowhere to be found. The Clippers got almost every look they wanted. Brandon Ingram led the Lakers with 21 points. Tonight they welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves to town.
The Timberwolves have been a little bit of disappointment this season as many people expected them to be a possible playoff team. A season-ending injury to Zach LaVine was huge for the growth of the team. They are coming off a 100-93 loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. Karl-Anthony Towns led the team with 25 points and 14 rebounds.
The Timberwolves backcourt is held down by Ricky Rubio and Brandon Rush. Rubio is not a scoring point guard but rather a pass first guard. He is at his best when he gets his teammates involved. He has the ability to knock down open jumpers, so it is important not to leave him open all the time.
Rush is a big-bodied guard that can knock down jump shots. His best attribute is his ability to make the three ball consistently. He is currently averaging 38.6 percent from that distance. Whoever is guarding him, either Jordan Clarkson or D’Angelo Russell must make sure he does not get open looks.
Off the bench, the Timberwolves turn to Tyus Jones, Kriss Dunn, and Omri Casspi. Jones is a player who uses his speed to his advantage. His smaller stature allows him to fly down the court and look for easy baskets.
Casspi is no stranger to the Lakers because always seems to play well against them. He is a very solid player and needs to be accounted for when he is on the floor. Dunn had high expectations for his rookie season, and so far he has underperformed. He is only averaging 3.6 points per game.
The backcourt of Clarkson and Russell has been better than expected. Both are putting up solid numbers and seem to play well together in the starting lineup. This starting combination allows Russell to slide into the shooting guard spot, which allows him to focus more on scoring the ball.
Clarkson has continued to play well in his role as point guard. He is averaging 14.5 points per game and will need to play like he has been for the Lakers to stand a chance in their remaining games, including tonight.
David Nwaba and Tyler Ennis come off the bench for the Lakers. Both are not scorers but are counted on to play solid defense and bring energy. Nick Young, who missed last game, will most likely also come off the bench if he is cleared to play. The Lakers will need his shooting tonight against an up and coming team.
Gorgui Dieng, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns make up the Timberwolves frontcourt. Towns is one the best young players the NBA has. In only his second year he is averaging 24.6 points and 12.2 rebounds per game. He has unlimited potential and should be the face of the league sooner rather than later. The Lakers bigs will have their work cut out for them tonight.
Wiggins is also one of the best young players in the game. He is averaging 23.0 points and 4.1 rebounds per game this season. His defense is also one of his strong points. His length and athleticism give the opposition a difficult time getting good looks. Brandon Ingram will get the opportunity to guard him and show the strides he has made throughout the season.
Dieng does not provide a ton of offense but is a solid defensive player. His strength and size give the Timberwolves a tough inside presence. Again, the Lakers bigs will need to box out and make solid passes around the basket so that Dieng does not impact the game significantly with his defense and rebounding.
Off the bench, the Timberwolves have Shabazz Muhammad and Cole Aldrich. Muhammad is a capable scorer, who can have a breakout game once in awhile. The Lakers need to be aware of where he is on the court because he can make a defense pay for their mistakes. Aldrich does not provide much offense or defense, but he still must be accounted for when he is on the court.
The Lakers backcourt of Ingram, Julius Randle, and Ivica Zubac has played well together. Ingram will have a tough task tonight against Wiggins, but it will make him a better and smarter player. Hopefully, he can score the way he has been tonight because the Lakers will need it to come away with a victory.
Randle and Zubac are a good combination because they can both play inside out. When Timofey Mozgov and Randle started, the paint would often get compact and not allow a lot of room to operate. The recent play of Zubac has earned praise from his teammates and fans. Randle will need to play well tonight on both ends of the floor. He will probably be asked to guard Towns at times, and it is important he does not make too many mental mistakes while doing so.
Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, and Corey Brewer did not play too well the other night against the Clippers. Tonight they need to find a way to play better on the defensive end because that is where the Lakers will need it most. With the way Thomas Robinson played last game, it might be beneficial for Luke Walton to insert him into the game at some point. He provides energy that is contagious for his teammates.
Three Keys To Victory
The Lakers defense this season has been atrocious at times. Teams often get easy baskets and open shots. If the Lakers want to become a better and more competitive team, they need to learn to play better defense. The Wolves have two of the best young players in the game, so it will be important to see how the Lakers defend them.
Containing Karl-Anthony Towns
Towns is one the best big men in today’s game. His offensive moves are very polished for a player only in his second year. The last thing the Lakers need is for him to score above his average of 24.6 points. If he gets up in the 30’s the Lakers will have a difficult time trying it get the victory.
Have Some Pride
No team likes getting blown out, and the Lakers have endured a few rough games this season where they have stood no chance. It gets to the point where the players have to realize that they are playing for their jobs next season. Hopefully, they can start doing that tonight against the Wolves.
Minnesota Timberwolves (28-42) Vs. Los Angeles Lakers (20-51)
7:30 P.M. PST, March 24, 2017
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Brandon Rush
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Gorgui Dieng
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Kriss Dunn, Shabazz Muhammad, Tyus Jones, Omri Casspi, Cole Aldrich
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Jordan Clarkson
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Julius Randle
C: Ivica Zubac
Key Reserves: David Nwaba, Tyler Ennis, Larry Nance Jr., Tarik Black, Corey Brewer, Nick Young