Frustrations boiled over as Los Angeles Lakers lost to the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night, with the team falling to 0-2 since their pre-trade deadline four-game winning streak was snapped against the Dallas Mavericks.
It’s a skid L.A. will look to end in Minnesota against the Timberwolves in what’s the final game before NBA All-Star Weekend. Getting back to their winning ways against the Timberwolves won’t be easy, however.
At 35-25, Minnesota is the third-best team in the Western Conference, and the precocious, playoff-bound pups have boasted the third-best offensive efficiency in the NBA this season, scoring 111.2 points per 100 possessions.
Minnesota has struggled more on the defensive end, giving up 108.4 points per 100 possessions, the fifth-worst defensive efficiency in the league. The Lakers have been considerably better on that side of the floor for most of this year, but haven’t been up to snuff over their last two games while ranking dead-last in the NBA in defensive rating (128) since the trade deadline.
The Lakers lost one of their best defenders (Larry Nance,Jr.) and another adequate one (Jordan Clarkson) in the deadline deal, swapping them out for Isaiah Thomas (whose reputation as a sieve is well-known) and Channing Frye (who isn’t playing much, and wouldn’t help the team’s defense if he was).
Two games is too quick to pass judgment on what effect Thomas will have on the defense, but of Lakers to play over 30 minutes, the Lakers are worst with Thomas on the floor, giving up 122.2 points per 100 possessions as compared to 112.1 with him on the bench.
The 10.1 points per 100 possessions are nearly the difference between the league-best Boston Celtics defense and the league-worst Phoenix Suns, and the Lakers will have to find a way to stop hemorrhaging points while Thomas is on the floor if they want to get back to the type of success they’ve had for most of the season.
That might not start against Minnesota, who has sliced through opposing defenses with plenty of ease. And Towns and co. are coming off of a day off while the Lakers just went through an emotional, high-strung loss to the Pelicans on the road.
The Wolves also have more to play for, while the banged-up Lakers could potentially be content to just make it through the All-Star break to lick their wounds.
It will be up to Luke Walton and the coaching staff to try and come up with some answers for one of the league’s best offenses while simultaneously motivating his players once again to not roll over in the face of adversity like they have at varying points in the past couple seasons.
Los Angeles Lakers (23-32) Vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (35-25):
6:00 P.M. PST, February 15, 2018
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Spectrum Sportsnet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Brandon Ingram
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
PF: Julius Randle
C: Brook Lopez
Key Reserves: Kyle Kuzma, Corey Brewer, Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye, Alex Caruso
Projected Pelicans Starting Lineup:
PG: Jeff Teague
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl Anthony-Towns
Key Reserves: Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Tyus Jones, Jamal Crawford
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