The Los Angeles Lakers may be without a backup point guard yet again as their injury problems mount. Because of that, they’ll need a collective effort against the young and talented Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night, led by star second-year wing Anthony Edwards.
Karl-Anthony Towns remains the Timberwolves’ best player. However, Edwards has exploded onto the scene in his second season, going for 48 points in their most recent game against the Golden State Warriors. The performance came in a loss, the team’s sixth straight after starting the season 3-1.
The Lakers, meanwhile, have just started to find a groove, winning their last two after an embarrassing loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. Overtime wins against the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat have given them confidence that they may be starting to figure things out.
What’s most impressive about this is the injuries they’ve faced along the way. Friday’s injury report is identical to their Wednesday night win over the Heat. LeBron James, Trevor Ariza, Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn and Austin Reaves are all out. Sekou Doumbouya and Rajon Rondo are questionable, while Anthony Davis is probable.
Rondo did not play on Wednesday, giving the Lakers a total of 10 available players, including Doumbouya, who is on a two-way contract. The Lakers combatted this by putting the ball in the hands of Malik Monk, who dominated with 27 points on 10-for-13 shooting.
With L.A. being as shorthanded as they are, they’ll need players outside of Davis and Russell Westbrook to step up like Monk did against the Heat.
The Timberwolves have no injuries, but they have underperformed offensively. Their offensive rating currently ranks 25th in the NBA, with almost 50% of their scoring coming from Edwards and Towns. In order to improve, they need to see a step forward from D’Angelo Russell, who has fallen from grace since his All-Star appearance with the Brooklyn Nets.
Russell — the team’s primary ballhandler — is averaging 17.1 points, 5.1 assists, and 3.1 turnovers a game on 38.8% from the field and 33.8% from three. Every single one of those numbers needs to improve for the Timberwolves to put themselves in a winning position.
The Lakers may present a great opportunity to do that, as injuries have thinned out their defensive guard depth. Opposing guards have played remarkably against the Lakers this season, and Russell desperately needs a good game.
Regardless, this is a game the Lakers should win, even while shorthanded. Of course, they’ve already dropped a couple of those types of games this season, but hopefully a newfound confidence can lead them to a third straight win.
Lakers (7-5) vs. Timberwolves (3-7)
7:30 p.m. PT, Nov. 12, 2021
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: Anthony Davis
C: DeAndre Jordan
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Malik Monk, Dwight Howard, Wayne Ellington
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: Patrick Beverly
SG: D’Angelo Russell
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jaden McDaniels
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Naz Reid, Malik Beasley, Jarred Vanderbilt, Josh Okogie
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