After a bizarre comeback win against the Orlando Magic, the Timberwolves round out their two-game home streak with a matinee match-up against the Los Angeles Lakers. With a win, the Timberwolves could go within two games of the Lakers, who currently hold the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
The Lakers got the world’s largest shot in the arm this offseason when they acquired LeBron James, but The King will continue his stint on the sidelines with a strained groin. The 34-year-old will be reevaluated in a week’s time. While this is good news for a Wolves team desperate to cling onto as many wins as possible, it’s disappointing that fans won’t get to see the best player in the world grace Target Center.
Without LeBron, the Lakers young core has struggled to live up to their lofty expectations. In the five games their spiritual leader has missed, Los Angeles has managed to win just one game. With defensive savants like Lonzo Ball and the surprisingly staunch JaVale McGee leading their defense, L.A. have been able to contain teams in those five games, but their problems have come on the other end of the floor.
They have posted a meager 102.6 offensive rating since James went down, which ranks them 26th in the NBA over that stretch. In that same time frame Minnesota has registered 112.7 offensive rating, grading them as the 11th best offensive unit, per NBA stats. However, Minnesota has had trouble guarding teams for all but a single Covington-inspired stretch this season, and currently hold the 10th worst defensive rating over the 39 games they have played.
In other words, trying to predict how this game will turn out is about as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike. It will likely be a dogfight though, and the Timberwolves can’t afford to sleepwalk into it like they have so many times this season.
One of the reasons the Timberwolves need to rock up with an abundance of energy is because they have injury problems of their own. While the often criticized Jeff Teague made a triumphant return against the Magic, the Timberwolves will likely be without the services of Derrick Rose and, more importantly, Robert Covington. Minnesota hold a 2-3 record this season when Glovington is inactive, and the absence of his All-NBA defensive chops and silky 3-point stroke leave a gaping hole in their starting line-up.
While the injury cloud is looming large over this game, there is still plenty of reasons for Timberwolves fans to cancel their afternoon plans and tune in. Fan favorite Josh Okogie predicts to start in RoCo’s place, as he continues to try and fight through the minor ‘rookie wall’ he has hit lately, and Karl-Anthony Towns will be looking to continue his amazing stretch of games as he heads into a potential second All-Star appearance.
In fact, his recent run as even led coach Tom Thibodeau to claim it might be Towns best overall streak in his star-studded career.
KAT over the last 5:— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) January 5, 2019
30.0 pts, 16.2 rebs, 5.4 assts, 3.2 blks
The Lakers have been slipping down the brutal Western Conference leaderboards of late, and every loss the Wolves endure hammers them further into the playoffs quicksand, so this game is a mid-season must-win. Riding the waves of the home crowd, Minnesota will have every right to believe they are favorites. The Lakers have played some great basketball this season though, and they will be craving a King-less win to settle down their easily frustrated fans.
Ladies and gentleman, we have ourselves a doozy.
Projected Starting Line-ups
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