The Los Angeles Lakers badly need a win after dropping three straight and four of five since winning the NBA In-Season Tournament. But things don’t get any easier in the second game of their road trip as they take on the team with the best record in the West, the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Both teams are on the second night of a back-to-back and coming off losses, but the Lakers will be without LeBron James, who is sitting out due to an ankle injury. Gabe Vincent, who made his return to the lineup last night, is also out for this game.
This means the pressure is on Anthony Davis and Austin Reaves to really carry the Lakers offense against the best defense in the NBA.
Davis has been outstanding in the month of December, but his work will be cut out for him against the dual bigs of the Timberwolves in Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota is excellent at limiting points in the paint so the Lakers will have to be creative in how they get Davis touches so he can be effective.
Reaves is also being counted on heavily to create both for himself and his teammates with LeBron out. The Lakers offense has already been inconsistent, so Reaves’ ability to get in the paint and make things happen will be crucial for the team’s success.
Rui Hachimura could get the start in place of LeBron and this would be an ideal night for a breakout performance from the talented forward. The Lakers need an offensive boost from somewhere and shots will be available so Hachimura could be in line for a big night. Max Christie should also get a look off the bench and will have the opportunity to make an impact as well.
Defensively, the Lakers’ biggest focus will obviously be Anthony Edwards. The wing has been outstanding this season and is poised to make his second consecutive All-Star team. He has greatly improved his outside shooting, which makes him nearly impossible to stop considering his otherworldly athleticism.
The Lakers have also been killed at the 3-point line recently and must be wary of the Timberwolves outside shooters. Towns, Mike Conley, Jaden McDaniels and Naz Reid are all capable of getting hot, but if the Lakers can contain the 3-ball, Minnesota’s offense has not been great otherwise and the Lakers locking down on defense could keep them in this game.
The Timberwolves are also one of the league’s worst teams in terms of taking care of the ball so if the Lakers are able to create some mistakes and get out in transition for easy buckets it would go a long way towards a potential huge win against the best team in the West.
Los Angeles Lakers (15-13) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-6)
6:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 21, 2023
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Radio: 710 AM ESPN LA
Projected Lakers starting lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Cam Reddish
SF: Taurean Prince
PF: Rui Hachimura
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Austin Reaves, Jarred Vanderbilt, Max Christie, Jaxson Hayes, Christian Wood
Projected Timberwolves starting lineup:
PG: Mike Conley
SG; Anthony Edwards
SF: Jaden McDaniels
PF: Karl-Anthony Towns
C: Rudy Gobert
Key Reserves: Naz Reid, Kyle Anderson, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Shake Milton
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