The Los Angeles Lakers have gotten some good news in terms of the NBA’s health and safety protocols and will now be much closer to full strength than originally believed as Russell Westbrook has cleared them and will be available for Friday’s contest against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers are still without Dwight Howard, Talen Horton-Tucker, Malik Monk and Avery Bradley, however, due to health and safety protocols. It was originally reported that Monk would be available, but he ended up not clearing protocols in time.
They are also without Austin Reaves, who was ruled out due to protocols just hours before tipoff.
L.A. did bring in some reinforcements though as they announced they signed Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract via the NBA’s hardship exemption. He is available to play on Friday night so it will be interesting to see if Frank Vogel gives him any run.
Also, Trevor Ariza is suiting up for the first time this season, although the expectation is that he won’t play and is only suiting up in case of emergency.
The Timberwolves, meanwhile, are without their second-leading scorer in Anthony Edwards, who was placed in the protocols earlier on Friday along with veteran Taurean Prince.
This game is a chance for revenge for the Lakers as they were embarrassed at Staples Center the first time these two teams met. The Timberwolves outscored the Lakers by 28 in the third quarter on that night as Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell outplayed Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
The biggest difference in this game, however, is that LeBron James will be on the floor for the Lakers. In six games in December, James is averaging 26.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.2 assists, 1.7 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 54.3% from the field and 39% from 3-point range. His presence on both ends has been vital as the Lakers have worked to slowly begin turning things around.
The loss of Edwards is a massive one for Minnesota as he is an explosive scorer, so more will fall on the shoulders of Towns and Russell. The matchup between Towns and Davis, in particular, is huge once again and Davis will have to be locked in and focused to hold Towns in check.
Turnovers and rebounding have been issues for the Lakers this season and they will need to be even more focused against a Timberwolves team that thrives in those areas. Minnesota ranks first in the NBA in points off turnovers and second in second-chance points. However, they also struggle to control the opposition in those areas as well, ranking the bottom-10 in opposition point off turnovers, second-chance points and fastbreak points allowed.
As long as the Lakers come out focused and do not underestimate their opponent without one of their stars, this is another opportunity to build on recent success and continue their winning ways.
Lakers (16-13) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (13-15)
7:00 p.m. PT, Dec. 15, 2021
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: ESPN, Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM ESPN
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Russell Westbrook
SG: Wayne Ellington
SF: Kent Bazemore
PF: LeBron James
C: Anthony Davis
Key Reserves: Carmelo Anthony, DeAndre Jordan, Isaiah Thomas, Rajon Rondo
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: D’Angelo Russell
SG: Patrick Beverley
SF: Malik Beasley
PF: Jarred Vanderbilt
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Jaden McDaniels, Naz Reid, Josh Okogie, Jaylen Nowell
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