The Los Angeles Lakers start their four-game road trip with a clash against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the NBA’s sixth-best offense in 2021-22.
The Timberwolves might play without a few important players on Wednesday. Jaden McDaniels will miss the game due to an ankle sprain. Patrick Beverley, Naz Reid, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Jordan McLaughlin have all been listed as questionable with different health issues.
However, Minnesota should have Anthony Edwards on the floor despite the forward grappling with a knee injury.
On the Lakers’ side, Dwight Howard is returning after missing the last game due to a family matter. Anthony Davis and Kendrick Nunn are still out with long-term injuries.
The Purple and Gold are facing an offensive powerhouse on Wednesday, making their first-quarter woes a matter that needs to be addressed urgently.
Minnesota might not thrive at scoring closer to the basket, but they bury opponents under an avalanche of 3s — attempting the most shots from beyond the arc, ranking second in 3-pointers made, and shooting a solid 35.3% from downtown on the season.
Also, as the Lakers learned the hard way early in the season, they often dominate on the offensive glass. The Timberwolves rank top-5 in both offensive rebounds and second-chance points, making it a tough matchup for the undersized L.A.
Wenyen Gabriel will likely receive some solid minutes from head coach Frank Vogel again, hoping the 24-year-old forward’s athleticism and hustle will help the Purple and Gold contain the frontcourt led by Karl Anthony-Towns — who scored 60 points last game.
As good as Minnesota fares in the opposite paint, they struggle to grab rebounds in their own — while gifting the rivals the most free throw attempts in the league. That should serve as an invitation for L.A. players on the floor to try and crash the boards, Russell Westbrook in particular.
Westbrook grabs 1.4 offensive boards per game, the seventh-highest average among guards in the NBA this year.
Also, Minnesota gives up plenty of fastbreak points, a weakness playing nicely into the L.A.’s hands. But if the Lakers can’t score in transition, they need to keep their poise in half-court — as the Timberwolves rank third in blocks and fourth in steals per game.
Towns, Reed, Edwards, and Beverley will be waiting to swat away poorly executed shots or strip the ball off of the Lakers if carelessness creeps into their game.
As LeBron James said recently, L.A. doesn’t have a lot of room for errors, as those have been punished by their opponents time and again this season. The margin of error will likely be even finer in this tricky matchup — if not for the Timberwolves’ ability to capitalize on mistakes, then because the Lakers are yet to qualify for the Play-In Tournament while having the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA.
Lakers (29-39) vs. Timberwolves (40-30)
5:00 p.m. PT, March 16, 2022
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Malik Monk
SF: Austin Reaves
PF: LeBron James
C: Dwight Howard
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, Talen Horton-Tucker, Wenyen Gabriel, Stanley Johnson, D.J. Augustin, Wayne Ellington
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Anthony Edwards
PF: Taurean Prince
C: Karl Anthony-Towns
Key Reserves: Malik Beasley, Jaylen Nowell, Naz Reid
Have you subscribed to our YouTube channel? It’s the best way to watch player interviews, exclusive coverage from events, participate in live shows, and more!