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Wolves at Lakers: A Golden Opportunity

Minnesota has a chance to further improve their playoff standing in Los Angeles.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Timberwolves (23-24) at Lakers (25-23)

9:30 pm CST
TNT

This week has gone pretty well for the Timberwolves considering they’ve improved their positioning in the playoff race. They still sit in 11th place in the Western Conference, but they’ve moved one game closer to the 8th and final spot.

None of the other games being played tonight will affect the Wolves very much, but a victory tonight would move them to .500 on the season. It would also move them into a tie for 10th place in the West with Sacramento, as well as just two games back on the Clippers for the 8th seed.

Additionally, a win over a team, like the Lakers, who are in a similar position in the standings is always important. The assumption by many is that the Lakers will roll into a playoff seed once LeBron returns. I tend to agree with those people, but who knows how long he’ll be out. Either way, a win in a series that could potentially have tiebreaker implications is always important.

For all of these reasons, the Wolves have an outstanding opportunity tonight. They are one of the lucky teams that gets to play the Lakers without LeBron, as well as Lonzo Ball. Rajon Rondo is going to make his return to action tonight, but LA will still be quite shorthanded in the playmaking category.

If the Wolves play anything like they did in Phoenix on Tuesday, they should come away with an important victory tonight. With several players out of the lineup, role players need to step up much like Josh Okogie and Jerryd Bayless did. Jeff Teague is out tonight, so Minnesota will need strong minutes from Jerryd Bayless again to lighten the load on Derrick Rose.

A matchup I’ll be watching tonight is Andrew Wiggins and Brandon Ingram. Both players were top-2 picks with sky high expectations. Unfortunately, neither player has lived up to those expectations thus far. The two do not have very similar games, but they’ll be vital in deciding who comes out ahead tonight. When Wiggins is on his game and active, the Wolves are very difficult to beat.

Another interesting matchup to watch tonight will be at the 4 spot for both teams. Kyle Kuzma is a more modern type wing player that plays the 4 for the Lakers. He’ll their best scorer on the floor tonight, but the overall matchup will be interesting to watch.

Taj Gibson hasn’t had the easiest time matching up with perimeter-oriented 4s, but he would undoubtedly be able to punish Kuzma in the post offensively. Additionally, this is one of the few times that Taj might actually be able to out-rebound his opposition. As long as Kuzma isn’t completely blowing by Taj on every possession, that could end up being an advantage for Minnesota. For a perimeter oriented 4, Kuzma is only making 30.8% of his three-point attempts this year.

Bet of the night

I’m in no way saying that you SHOULD make these bets. I’m not betting them. It’s just a fun extra thing that I’ll be tracking for the remainder of the season. All lines via Bovada.

We started off the betting season 0-1, as Karl-Anthony Towns did not go over his point total of 25.5 on Tuesday. It was a heartbreaker, as Towns dropped 20 first half points, and only followed up with 5 in the second half. Gambling is cruel. We’ll look to get back on track tonight.

The pick: Timberwolves -1 (-110)

The Lakers are arguably even more shorthanded than the Wolves are given how important LeBron James is to what they want to do. There is some risk involved here considering how poorly Minnesota has played on the road this year, but I believe that they’re the better team and that will show tonight. I like a few of the matchups for Minnesota, and they should be able to come away with a victory. As long as KAT is able to stay on the floor, I think Minnesota will be in nice shape.

Projected Lineups

Wolves

Derrick Rose
Josh Okogie
Andrew Wiggins
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Lakers

Rajon Rondo
Josh Hart
Brandon Ingram
Kyle Kuzma
Tyson Chandler