The Los Angeles Lakers welcome back Brandon Ingram from his four-game suspension as their road trip continues against the talented but troubled Minnesota Timberwolves. Both teams come into the game with a 2-4 record.
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The Lakers are coming off a close loss to the San Antonio Spurs, but are now back at full strength with the return of Ingram. The young forward gives them another playmaker, scorer and defender, which the Lakers will need against a Timberwolves team deep in wing scorers.
Merging him back with the starters will be interesting to see as Ingram provides less shooting than Kyle Kuzma who had taken the starting spot.
Of course, no team has been dealing with more controversy than the T-Wolves and it has shown so far this year. The numbers for Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins have suffered mightily as the franchise works on a trade for star Jimmy Butler.
While Butler has been his normal self, Towns and Wiggins are averaging only around 16 points, with Towns shooting better from deep than inside the arc. Wiggins has also been dealing with a quad injury that has kept him out of the last two contests so his availability for the game is in question.
The pressure will be on JaVale McGee to continue his strong start to the season and keep Towns struggling. McGee has done a great job as a rim protector, but Towns is someone that must be guarded at every level and the Lakers can’t afford for him to pick up silly fouls.
Controlling the glass will also be extremely important. This has been an issue for the Lakers so far this year and Minnesota is one of the best offensive rebounding teams in the league, led by Taj Gibson.
But just as good as the T-Wolves are on the offensive glass, they are awful on the other side so the Lakers could get themselves some easy buckets by crashing their own offensive backboards.
Defensively, the Lakers must continue to improve with their communication and keeping guys in front of them. Butler, Wiggins and Derrick Rose will all be looking to attack the rim relentlessly so the on-ball defense must be on-point and the team must talk through all switches.
Minnesota has been an average offensive team, but the Lakers have had a tendency to make average look elite.
LeBron James has been as advertised so far and that will need to continue, along with lifting up his teammates. The young core has been excellent, with Josh Hart especially shining as a defender and shooter.
He and Ingram will be matching up with Butler and Wiggins (if healthy) so being able to outplay them would go a long way in securing a victory. Kuzma also will be worth watching.
Starting over the last four games has allowed Kuzma’s offense to kick into gear and he is now second on the Lakers in scoring, averaging 19.5 points. Now he will have to continue that level of play with the second unit while Lonzo Ball will look for a bounce-back game after an uninspiring outing on Saturday night.
Both teams have also been sparked by explosive veteran guards coming off the bench. Lance Stephenson has been outstanding for the Lakers and is now averaging 11.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists while shooting 40 percent from three-point range. Likewise, Derrick Rose has scored in double-figures in each of the last five contests.
With four games this week the Lakers need to get off to a strong start. The Timberwolves offer a great chance to do just that, but they are undoubtedly talented enough to make the Lakers pay if they come out less than focused.
Los Angeles Lakers (2-4) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (2-4)
5:00 P.M. PT, Oct. 29. 2018
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Lonzo Ball
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: LeBron James
C: JaVale McGee
Key Reserves: Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Kyle Kuzma, Johnathan Williams
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Andrew Wiggins
SF: Jimmy Butler
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Derrick Rose, Josh Okogie, Anthony Tolliver, Gorgui Dieng