Another one bites the dust. The Wolves now join the Lakers as one of the many teams facing outbreaks related to COVID-19 health and safety protocol. As our Kyle Theige detailed earlier, losing Anthony Edwards (and Taurean Prince) may take a lot of wind out of the sails of an otherwise exciting game that’s being nationally televised, but there are still plenty of stars to watch tonight. 5 all-stars in particular.
Who: Los Angeles Lakers (16-13; 6th) at Minnesota Timberwolves (13-15; 9th)
When: 9:00 pm CST
TV: ESPN & Bally Sports North
Radio: 830 WCCO AM Radio
Taurean Prince also added to the protocols as well. https://t.co/LGSSQQBGSj— Chris Hine (@ChristopherHine) December 17, 2021
Update: Austin Reaves is now in health and safety protocols and is out tonight at Minnesota. https://t.co/9XIWnDgOOB— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 17, 2021
What To Watch For
- It feels like every 30 minutes, there is “BREAKING NEWS” regarding player availability. It’s really quite concerning. After the big one dropped about Ant, I was prepping myself for a LeBron/AD vs. D’Lo/KAT duel. Four all-stars who have had some interesting individual storylines of their own this season. However just like his playstyle, Russell Westbrook came crashing into the picture a few hours later, somehow managing to test/clear out of the health and safety protocols within a 24-hour period. That said, it may be fortuitous for Minnesota that Russ is available. He was disastrous for the Lakers in their loss 83-107 loss against the Wolves in LA just a month ago, posting 5 turnovers (3 assists) and just 20 points (10 coming in garbage time). To his credit, he’s been playing a bit better during the Lakers current 3-game winning streak, but any opportunity to keep the ball out of Bron and AD’s hands will be welcome.
Do the Lakers have different protocols than the rest of the NBA?— Canis Hoopus (@canishoopus) December 17, 2021
Kidding, of course.
(kind of) https://t.co/HvQzA2odKB
- Another headline that made some waves was the Lakers signing Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day hardship contract yesterday. The former MVP candidate is one of the true “good guys” of the league and his battle back from what I now call “The Jonny Flynn Injury” is certainly inspiring. The 5’9” guard just recently posted 42 points, 6 rebounds, and 8 assists in his G-league debut for the Grand Rapids Gold. I doubt he plays any more than 5-10 minutes tonight, if at all, but anything is possible given how many players the Lakers are down.
- Who’s going to step up in Ant’s (and TP) absence? The first player that pops into mind is Malik Beasley. His current shooting splits are ghastly (.361/.341/.739; .497 TS%), but in the 3-game stretch where D’Lo was out, he was much closer to the NBA star Malik Beasley version that we grew to love when the Wolves first acquired him. In that non-D’Lo span, Beas averaged 17.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.7 assists on much better percentages (.444 FG%; .433 3P%). If we can get that type of output from him, Ant’s absence can hopefully be mitigated.
- If the Wolves want to win this crucial game against a
nicefellow 6-9 seed rival, then KAT & D’Lo have slim to no room for error tonight. The Wolves don’t get to trot out their G.L.E., but this game will still be interesting to watch. So far this season, we’ve seen this team function without 1 of their Big 3 and today will be the final variation. As a reminder of our records:
- KAT, Ant, & D’Lo: 13-9
- KAT & Ant: 0-5
- D’Lo & Ant: 0-1
- KAT & D’Lo: ???
The most dominant lineup in the league this season isn't in Golden State, Phoenix, or Utah.— Rob Mahoney (@RobMahoney) December 17, 2021
It's in Minnesota.
Where that lineup can take the Wolves going forward—and where it can’t: https://t.co/2aUcSljl9N
- When looking at Los Angeles’ and Minnesota’s team ratings on the season, they’re eerily similar. The Timberwolves are 22nd in OFFRTG while the Lakers are 23rd (107.2 vs 107.0). Meanwhile, the Wolves are 12th in DEFRTG while the Lakers are 11th (107.7 vs 107.2). There are many other similarities such as pace (Both in top 5) and AST/TO (Both in bottom 8), but one of the bigger differences is EFG%. Minnesota is still sitting at 25th in the league (50.6) while the Lakers are up at 11th (53.2) so we’ll have to see who Lady Luck chooses to bless tonight.
- Pat Bev and Westbrook didn’t really go at it when the two matched up back in November. I’m expecting a full-blown war tonight. PB is going to knock the ball out of bounds off Russ at least once tonight and scream so hard into his face that the two get into a shoving match. Advantage: Beverley.
- I was fully expecting Malik Monk and/or Austin Reaves (Who just hit a game-winning buzzer-beating three pointer in overtime last night) to have a MPE tonight, but since they’re both out, I’m going with former Timberwolves great, The Man with the Golden Arm, Mr. Wayne Robert Ellington Jr. “Make It Wayne” is certainly exploding for 15+ tonight on 80%+ shooting tonight.
- With the Wolves up by 1 off a hero-ball D’Lo three pointer make, the Lakers call timeout with 1.0 seconds remaining. Three Lakers lineup on their own side of the floor and isolate LeBron 1-on-1 against Jarred Vanderbilt on the other side. Rondo tosses a perfect back shoulder pass to James from the sideline, who catches it at the charity stripe and turns over his right shoulder for his patented fadeaway jump shot. Uh oh. Just as the Wolves collective grab their heads in disbelief of this seemingly wide open attempt that LeBron gets (again), Vando jumps 40” in the air and gets a fingertip on the shot, preserving the victory as the home crowd goes wild. Instead of landing back on the ground, Jarred continues flying into the air and explodes out of the ceiling of Target Center, flying into space like Neo. Wolves win; 105-104. Ant tweets out, “I guess he The One, jack”