Lakers Vs. Timberwolves Game Preview & TV Info: New Year, New Beginnings
(Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Lakers are hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday in the third game of one of the most difficult season series for L.A. this year.

The Lakers lost the previous two meetings, getting outscored by 42 points combined. Karl Anthony-Townes thrived in both games, averaging 28.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 3.0 assists.

The Timberwolves are without Towns and former Laker D’Angelo Russell this time around though, as both remain in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. Having tested out of the protocols, Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt and McKinley Wright IV were listed as “questionable” to appear on the team’s injury report ahead of the clash.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are playing without Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn. Rajon Rondo is also sitting out amid the veteran guard’s pending trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Head coach Frank Vogel says he will stick with a smaller starting lineup considering Towns’ absence on Sunday — meaning LeBron James should head for tip-off as the Lakers’ center.

Russell Westbrook, Avery Bradley, Malik Monk and Stanley Johnson, should join the 19-year veteran among the starters.

James has been in exceptional form lately, averaging 37.8 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 7.3 assists over the last four games. That includes his season-high of 43 points the four-time NBA champion scored in the New Year’s Eve rout of the Portland Trail Blazers.

Expect James to continue getting involved in everything the Lakers do on the court, especially after Westbrook said he wants the 37-year-old All-Star’s “attack mode” to stay on.

“You just try to find ways to be able to get him the ball, simple as that,” Westbrook recently said of playing alongside James, acknowledging the Lakers’ leader’s extraordinary scoring form.

Aggressiveness should be part of the Lakers’ game plan against the Timberwolves, who present their rivals with the most trips to the free-throw line (giving up 24.6 shots from the charity stripe per game) in the NBA.

Minnesota also ranks among the five teams that let their opponents collect the most rebounds each night, which could lead to extra possessions for Westbrook, James, Malik Monk, and Carmelo Anthony to take advantage of.

Having the majority of the roster back from their battles with COVID-19, James said he expects L.A.’s form to surge in the coming weeks. A win over the Timberwolves to begin 2022 could justify the Lakers superstar’s optimism — and prove the Purple and Gold’s best days indeed still lay ahead.

Lakers (18-19) vs. Timberwolves (16-19)

6:30 p.m. PT, Jan. 2, 2022
Crypto.com Arena, Los Angeles, California
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA

Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:

PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Avery Bradley
SF: Malik Monk
PF: Stanley Johnson
C: LeBron James

Key Reserves: Talen Horton-Tucker, Austin Reaves, Carmelo Anthony, Trevor Ariza, Wayne Ellington

Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:

PG: Patrick Beverley
SG: Malik Beasley
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Jaden McDaniels
C: Naz Reid

Key Reserves: Greg Monroe, Nathan Knight, Jordan McLaughlin, Jaylen Nowell

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