The Los Angeles Lakers have lost six-straight games and nine of their last 10 contests after losing their final game of 2017 against the Houston Rockets in double-overtime. The team will look to get 2018 off on a winning start as they head to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves.
Unfortunately for the Lakers, their first win of 2018 doesn’t look likely to come Monday. They will again be without three starters with Brook Lopez (ankle sprain), Lonzo Ball (shoulder sprain) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (court-ordered restriction) all not traveling to Minnesota.
L.A. will also be on the road on the second night of a back-to-back after a dispiriting loss in double-OT the night before and getting used to a new starting lineup.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, the Lakers will be going up against a Timberwolves team that is the best roster the franchise has fielded in quite some time. Winners of seven of their last nine games, the Timberwolves have the seventh-best record in the NBA and the fourth-best in the Western Conference.
The Wolves haven’t accomplished all that success in the way most anticipated going into the year. They were expected to make their bones on defense under tactician Tom Thibodeau, but have instead fielded the seventh-worst defense in the league (allowing 107.6 points per 100 possessions) while succeeding on the strength of the fourth-most efficient offense in the NBA, scoring 110.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Lakers already got a look at what that looks like while getting Grinch’d by the Wolves’ offense in a 121-104 loss that wasn’t even really that close. Jimmy Butler scored 23 points while Karl-Anthony Towns had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Minnesota to the franchise’s first-ever Christmas Day victory.
L.A. was on fire offensively against the Rockets and could spew flames again in Minnesota if the Wolves’ defense continues to drive Thibodeau more hoarse. But with fatigue a factor and Minnesota playing the 17th-best defense in the league over the last nine games of its steady stretch of play, another unexpectedly strong effort from the Lakers appears unlikely.
However, a saving grace for the Lakers could be that Minnesota did host the Pacers Sunday night and with it’s trio of stars in Andrew Wiggins, Towns and Butler all among the highest minutes-getters in the league, a combination of spending New Year’s Eve at home and not taking the Lakers seriously enough while fighting tired legs could let L.A. pounce and end its latest losing skid.
Minnesota is without Jeff Teague, who suffered a sprained MCL and is out indefinitely.
Los Angeles Lakers (11-23) Vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (25-9)
5:00 P.M. PST, January 1, 2018.
Toyota Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
TV: Spectrum SportsNet
Radio: 710 AM (ESPN)/1330 KWKW (Spanish)
Projected Lakers Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyler Ennis
SG: Josh Hart
SF: Brandon Ingram
PF: Kyle Kuzma
C: Julius Randle
Key Reserves: Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Corey Brewer
Projected Timberwolves Starting Lineup:
PG: Tyus Jones
SG: Jimmy Butler
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Taj Gibson
C: Karl-Anthony Towns
Key Reserves: Nemanja Bjelica, Gorgui Dieng, Jamal Crawford
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