Tonight, the Minnesota Timberwolves tip off agains the Los Angeles Lakers for the third and final time this season. The Wolves took both of the previous games by one point each, 112-111 to open the season and 123-122 in an overtime thriller ("thriller"?). If the previous games are any indication, tonight may be a rather high scoring affair.
The Lakers have struggled mightily this year, amassing only nine wins, with only the purposefully bad Philadelphia 76ers having a worse record. Los Angeles ranks in the bottom five in the league in points per game, opponents points per game, offensive rating, defensive rating, field goal percentage, three point percentage, and total assists. While the Wolves haven't faired much better during the 2015-16 season, this is a game the Wolves should win and hopefully by more than a point this time.
Despite their record, the Lakers do have a few young, talented players in guards Jordan Clarkson and D'Angelo Russell as well as forward Julius Randle. The Wolves most difficult task tonight will be trying to contain Clarkson and Randle; Clarkson is shifty and weasely on offense and has shot 60% from the field against the Wolves this year while Randle plays with high energy, is tenacious on the boards, and has been pretty destructive in his two games against Minnesota (17.5 ppg, 11.5 rpg). Russell has had an up and down rookie season and his marriage with head coach Byron Scott has been rocky and well documented. While his stats are rather mediocre at this point, he is still extremely talented and is always a threat to explode.
Luckily (and perhaps unsurprisingly) for the Wolves, rookie standout Karl-Anthony Towns has been pretty productive against the Lakers this season as he has averaged 20.0 ppg and 13.0 rbg to go along with 1.5 blocks in their two meetings. The Lakers really don't have an answer for Towns and his skill set as he can take Roy Hibbert out to the elbows and beyond while also being able to overpower Randle down in the post. I'm looking for Towns to continue his hot streak and build towards a fourth Rookie of the Month recognition. Andrew Wiggins, on the other hand, has struggled against against L.A. this season, averaging only 14.0 ppg while shooting 34.6% from the field. The big thing that often dictates Wiggins individual success during a game is if his first couple of shots find their way to the bottom of the net. Hopefully he can get going early and break out of his recent slump (5/29 from the field over the last two games).
And then there is Kobe Bryant. Tonight marks Bryant's final game against the Wolves, although he is currently listed as questionable with a shoulder injury. In his storied career, Bryant has faced the Wolves 63 times in the regular season and has averaged 24.0 ppg, 5.2 apg, and 4.9 rbg. Despite your personal opinions toward his play over his career or this season, Bryant is one of the league's all-time greats and hopefully he is able to go tonight so Wolves fans can see him play one last time against their favorite franchise.
Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers
Nikola Pekovic is doubtful as he deals with soreness and pain in his surgically repaired foot and the two Kevins are out as they are still recovering from their wrist (Martin) and knee (Garnett) injuries.
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California
9:30 PM CT
TV: FSN, NBA TV (so no League Pass, also this was the game NBA TV chose to air?)
Radio: 830 WCCO
Follow the Lakers blog at Silver Screen and Roll.
Don't do any of the stuff that your aren't supposed to do in the comments.
Enjoy the game.