Lakers News: LeBron James Stresses Need To Be Locked In Defensively Vs. Timberwolves
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The regular season is over and the Los Angeles Lakers now must focus on the Play-In Game as they are set to host the Minnesota Timberwolves. The team is pretty much healthy and with LeBron James and Anthony Davis leading the way, the Lakers are planning on making a long postseason run.

But that all begins on Tuesday as the Lakers must get past the Timberwolves in order to lock in that playoff spot and for LeBron, the opponent doesn’t really matter too much.

“That we get Minnesota next, that’s all,” LeBron responded when asked what it means to be facing the Timberwolves. “We prep. We start playoff prep tomorrow for them, and we get ready for Tuesday.”

Regardless of who the opponent was, LeBron knows that the mindset has to be the same. One positive the Lakers do have is that they have homecourt for the Play-In Tournament, which James is happy about but knows it’s no reason to relax.

“For us, it’s just good that we don’t have to travel,” LeBron added. “We’ve traveled a lot lately, so it’s good that we get to stay here, but that doesn’t make us … we shouldn’t be comfortable. We’ve got to stay on edge and get ready for the game.”

The Lakers spent a week on the road before finishing up the season at home for their last couple of games so being able to remain home for this huge game is undoubtedly a positive. But the Timberwolves are no joke and James is aware of the challenge they present and the firepower they bring.

“It’s a challenge versus everybody. Minnesota is no different,” LeBron said. “When you got guys like Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards. Those guys can both go for 40 against you and put multiple pressure on you. You have a very cerebral and solid point guard in Mike Conley, who has been in multiple playoff games.

Keeping Towns and Edwards in check will definitely be a serious challenge, though Minnesota will be without some key players. Center Rudy Gobert has been suspended by the team for the contest while forward Jaden McDaniels suffered a fractured hand and both will not play on Tuesday.

But as LeBron noted, the Lakers can’t be comfortable in this game. He knows the Lakers have to be locked in and particularly on one end of the floor. “I think defense. We hang our hats on the defensive end,” LeBron said. “We know we’re really good when we’re defending, we’re rebounding, we’re protecting one another and we’re getting out and we’re doing what we do best and that’s sprinting from a fastbreak or spreading out or whatever the case may be.

“It’s definitely some of the dog days right now as you round out the regular season, but we understand what’s in front of us and what’s coming about. We’ll be fine.”

It will be on LeBron and Davis to set the tone and lead the charge as anything less than maximum effort on Tuesday will force the Lakers in a win-or-go-home contest Friday night and no one wants that.

Lakers’ D’Angelo Russell not feeling extra motivation facing former team in Play-In Game

This time last season D’Angelo Russell was also preparing himself for a home game in the Play-In Tournament, but it was as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves. Of course Russell was dealt to the Lakers at the trade deadline this year, but he insists he doesn’t feel any extra motivation going up against his former team.

“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. “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.”

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