Lakers Vs. Timberwolves Game Preview: Another Must-Win In Western Conference Standings Battle
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers have just six games remaining in their regular season and they’ll need every win they can get as they fight for positioning in the 2023 NBA Playoffs. For this reason, perhaps the biggest game of the season to this point comes on Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Like Wednesday, the Lakers are nearly at full strength for this must-win matchup. Mo Bamba is the only player expected to miss Friday’s game. This means the Lakers can roll out their new-look starting lineup from their win over the Chicago Bulls.

The starting lineup of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, D’Angelo Russell, Austin Reaves and Jarred Vanderbilt won their 16 minutes on Wednesday by a score of 48-26. They had a net rating of 65.2 and were the only five players with positive plus-minuses on the night.

The bench must be more positive contributors on Friday if the Lakers want to grab this vital victory. L.A.’s bench combined for just 14 points on 5-for-22 from the field. Rui Hachimura (six points) and Dennis Schroder (eight points) made up the entirety of the bench scoring.

The Timberwolves, meanwhile, have several players questionable for this marquee matchup. The biggest injury news out of Minnesota is that forward Naz Reid could miss the remainder of the season after suffering a fractured left wrist. He had become a major part of the Timberwolves’ game plan with averages of 11.5 points and 4.9 rebounds on the season.

Listed as questionable for the Timberwolves are Jaylen Nowell (knee), Taurean Prince (Illness), Austin Rivers (Illness) and Matt Ryan (Illness). Anthony Edwards, Kyle Anderson and Karl-Anthony Towns are all listed as probable and will likely play.

The Lakers lost to the Timberwolves earlier this month in another must-win atmosphere. L.A. did not have James or Russell for that game, but got an incredible 38-point performance from Davis. The Timberwolves did not have Towns in that matchup.

Rudy Gobert finished with 22 points and 14 rebounds in that game, while the Timberwolves got a balanced attack from Edwards, Mike Conley, Prince and Reid.

The Lakers will rely heavily on Davis, Vanderbilt, Wenyen Gabriel and James defensively with Edwards, Towns and Gobert in the lineup.

Prior to any games beginning on Friday, the Lakers sit at No. 9 in the Western Conference. However, they are tied — in the loss column — to both the No. 8 Timberwolves and No. 7 New Orleans Pelicans. A win would catapult the Lakers ahead of the Timberwolves and potentially the Pelicans as well.

Other important games to watch tonight include the Oklahoma City Thunder (No. 10) visiting the Indiana Pacers, the L.A. Clippers (No. 5) facing the Memphis Grizzlies and the Golden State Warriors (No. 6) hosting the San Antonio Spurs.

Los Angeles Lakers (38-38) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (39-38)

5:00 p.m. PT, March 31, 2023
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: NBATV, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Austin Reaves
SF: LeBron James
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Anthony Davis

Key Reserves: Dennis Schroder, Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Malik Beasley, Wenyen Gabriel

Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:

PG: Mike Conley
SG: Anthony Edwards
SF: Jaden McDaniels
PF: Karl-Anthony Towns
C: Rudy Gobert

Key Reserves: Jaylen Nowell, Taurean Prince, Kyle Anderson, Jordan McLaughlin

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