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Game Preview #6: Wolves vs Lakers

Minnesota welcomes Patrick Beverley and the winless Los Angeles Lakers to town for a Friday night showdown

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver Nuggets NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Game Info

What To Watch For

Win the Transition Battle

To put it lightly, the Lakers are an absolutely brutal offensive team right now. Through their first four games, they are scoring just 96.9 points per 100 possessions. That is last in the NBA by 5.3 points/100 possessions (!!!!). That is impossibly bad, and things are even worse than that for LA in the half-court. It goes without saying, but the easiest way for players like LeBron James and Russell Westbrook to score is by getting layups and dunks in transition.

That puts an extra emphasis on taking care of the basketball and getting back on defense tonight for the Wolves. I don’t expect them to be so conservative that they leave the arena without collecting a single offensive rebound again tonight, but I also wouldn’t hate that gameplan. This Lakers team is such a circus, and the halfcourt offense is so bad and clunky, that the only real way the Wolves should struggle defensively is if they give the Lakers easy opportunities in transition.

Editors note: Forget everything Mike said about AD, who is out tonight with lower back tightness. Wolves by 15. Happy Friday

Alternatively, the Lakers defense has actually been pretty solid. They’re allowing 104.0 points/100 possessions, good for 4th in the NBA. All jokes aside, they’re still a good defensive team, especially in the half court where LeBron and Anthony Davis can make things difficult.

Where you can get the Lakers, though, is taking advantage of their carelessness with the ball. Both LeBron and Russ are turnover prone. The Lakers have been a middle-of-the-road team in terms of turnover rate, but there will absolutely be opportunities for Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels to get in passing lanes and pick up easy points on the break.

Play With Effort and Purpose

I’ll say it again. This Lakers team is a circus right now. The star players clearly do not get along, and do not enjoy playing with each other. Aside from this showing up with poorly fitting pieces, it has now started to impact the effort they play with on a possession by possession basis. If there were ever a game for the Wolves to make a real strong point to do the little things and make extra efforts to win a game, tonight is the night, because it will bury their opponent.

This will come naturally for the bench, but it’s paramount for the starters to jump on this opportunity as well. The body language for the Lakers is routinely terrible. Capitalize on that! This is a grand opportunity to build chemistry and make a point to show each other that you will play for each other, and make the necessary extra efforts to win. It’s never as simple as just playing harder than your opponent, but if the Wolves do so tonight, it will give them a larger cushion than they already have.

Control the Paint

We’ve mentioned that the Lakers offense is a disaster, and that is largely because they are, by far, the worst shooting team in the NBA thus far. Through four games, they are shooting a horrid 22.3% from on 37.0 attempts per game. That is an unsustainably bad number, but still, the team plays both Russell Westbrook and Anthony Davis for long periods of time. They’re a bad jump-shooting team. The Wolves need to still make the effort to contest, as you can’t just give NBA players wide-open threes over and over again, but shutting off the paint should be priority number one, two, and three tonight.

While the Lakers poor floor spacing makes that an easier task, LA still has guys who can pressure the rim if you’re not sharp. I don’t think LeBron and AD need much introduction in that regard, and getting to the rim is one of the few positive ways Russ contributes to the team still. It pays to have Rudy Gobert on a night like this, but it will also be on Anthony Edwards and Jaden McDaniels to close-out to shooters under control, and with a priority on cutting off driving lanes.

The Lakers have scored a larger percentage of their total points from in the paint than any other team in the NBA to this points (54.3%), and while that is partly inflated because of how poorly they are shooting, it also shows where they can be effective.

As long as the Wolves are intentional about the passes they make and the way they defend, they should be able to generate enough offense to win this game.

Celebrating Patrick Beverley

I’d imagine a tribute video is coming tonight, but I wanted to just take a short amount of space to remember how fun it was to have Pat Bev in a Timberwolves uniform. He deserves all of the love he gets in Minneapolis, and while he was only here for one season, he’s going to be remembered as someone who changed the culture, and helped turn a perennial loser into a winner. It was imperative for both Karl-Anthony Towns and Anthony Edwards that Beverley found a way to, constructively, get in their ear and tell them what they needed to do to win. I hope Pat gets a loud, standing ovation tonight.

Injury Report

Minnesota Timberwolves

  • Kyle Anderson: DOUBTFUL — back spasms
  • Josh Minott: OUT — G-League assignment
  • Luka Garza: OUT — G-League assignment
  • Wendell Moore, JR: OUT — G-League assignment

Los Angeles Lakers

  • Russell Westbrook: PROBABLE — hamstring
  • LeBron James: PROBABLE — left foot soreness
  • Anthony Davis: OUT — lower back tightness
  • Juan Toscano-Anderson: OUT — left ankle sprain