Lakers News: D’Angelo Russell Doesn’t Have Extra Motivation Facing Timberwolves In Play-In Game Understanding What Is At Stake
D'Angelo Russell, Lakers
Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers finished the 2022-23 regular season as the seventh seed and will take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the Play-In Tournament on Tuesday night. It is a team that is very familiar to a few Lakers as D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt were all members of that franchise last year.

Beasley and Vanderbilt were traded away last offseason while Russell was traded at the deadline with all three finding their way to the Lakers. This has the potential to be a revenge game for any one of them, but Russell is not approaching the contest against his former team any differently, insisting they are just a team in the way of the Lakers’ ultimate goal.

“I mean, not the fact that they traded me has anything to do with it but the fact they’re in the way of what we’re trying to get done,” Russell said following the Lakers’ season-finale win over the Utah Jazz. “That’s all that really matters to me, honestly. Trying to prepare mentally now for that because obviously it’s a big game and it matters. It dictates a lot, so I’m just trying to get that win by any means.”

It’s a huge game as a win locks the Lakers into the seventh seed while a loss would push them into an all-or-nothing contest on Friday. It’s a position Russell is familiar with as he was part of the Timberwolves who were in this exact same spot last year so he knows exactly what the atmosphere will be like.

“It’s an all-or-nothing type of … It’s like Game 7, right? All the marbles,” Russell said. “If you don’t get it done, you go home. Simple as that. So you see guys playing extremely hard. See coaches coaching extremely hard. Everybody’s trying to do their job to the fullest to get the win because it obviously matters, so simple as that. I mean, I don’t know if you get experience from this. It’s basically like a playoff vibe.”

As far as what the Lakers need to do to come out on top on Tuesday, the answer was simple. “I think defense,” Russell noted. “Obviously, that team has a lot of firepower as well. Coach is really good at quick hitters and things like that. [Chris] Finch. I think defensive intensity is going to get us out of there.

“Obviously, we can score with the best. Just locking into that. They’ve got some heavy hitters over there. If we can contain those guys, I think we’ll be alright.”

As Russell noted, they still have “heavy hitters” in Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns while veterans like Mike Conley and Kyle Anderson won’t be afraid of the moment either. Russell and the Lakers will need to be locked in if they plan on making the Play-In a one game ordeal.

Timberwolves’ Jaden McDaniels, Rudy Gobert both out for Play-In Game vs. Lakers

The Timberwolves will be without some key pieces on Tuesday against the Lakers, however. Center Rudy Gobert was suspended by the team for the game after throwing a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson on the bench during their regular season finale. Additionally, breakout forward Jaden McDaniels fractured his hand punching a wall during the contest and is also out.

With those two gone, as well as talented backup big man Naz Reid being out with wrist surgery, the Lakers have the chance to dominate inside as the Wolves won’t be nearly as big or deep.

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