Before the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers clash in what will surely be an intense outing with former Wolves D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt facing the team that traded them away, let’s review the teams’ three meetings in the regular season before they lace ‘em up on Tuesday.
The Wolves won two of three games against the Lakers this season, with wins of 111-102 and 110-102 coming on Oct. 28 and March 3, respectively. Their one loss against Los Angeles came just over one week ago, on March 31.
The Wolves-Lakers matchups this season were riddled with injuries, with LeBron James missing one of the three games, Anthony Davis missing one game, and Towns also missing one.
The trend of significant players missing games in this matchup will continue into the postseason, as Rudy Gobert has been suspended by the team for Tuesday night’s game.
Oct. 28 - Wolves 111, Lakers 102: “The Two-Big Lineup Works!”
In one of only a few dominant interior showings from the Wolves’ jumbo front-court this season, Minnesota dominated with their size against Los Angeles just before Halloween. Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert combined for 43 points and 29 rebounds on Oct. 28.
KAT finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while shooting 8-for-17 from the field and 3-for-7 from deep.
The Timberwolves’ success on the interior might have been related to Anthony Davis’ absence, one that thrust Damian Jones and Wenyen Gabriel into substantial front-court minutes.
The script flips for Tuesday, with Gobert-less Minnesota taking on a rolling Lakers team (won nine of last 11) and a towering interior presence in Davis.
Anthony Edwards shot 50% from the field on Oct. 28, scoring 29 points on 22 shot attempts. He repeatedly attacked the paint off the pick-and-roll, recording multiple tough finishes against the Lakers’ second string rim protection.
With Davis back in the fold for the Play-In matchup, Edwards’ lanes to the hoop likely won’t be as clear as they were on Oct. 28.
March 3 - Wolves 110, Lakers 102: The Anthony Davis Game
Now without their All-NBA center, the Wolves were down to just one dominant big in their rotation in early March.
Despite Gobert’s defensive abilities, Davis went for 38 points and single-handedly gave Los Angeles a shot at walking out of Crypto.com Arena with a win.
On the other end of the floor, the three-time Defensive Player of the Year scored 22 points and ripped down 14 rebounds. He also led the team in scoring.
Going in and out of foul trouble, Gobert was forced to watch from the bench for much of the third quarter while Davis feasted.
Anthony Edwards scored 15 of his 19 points from beyond the arc while shooting an efficient 5-for-8 from deep. It was a relatively quiet scoring night from the 2022-23 NBA All-Star, but when crunch time arrived it was recently-acquired Mike Conley that vaulted the Wolves to victory.
Conley didn’t have a standout night in the box score (14 points, six rebounds, three assists), but hit a huge shot to add to Minnesota’s lead with just over one minute remaining.
March 31 - Lakers 123, Wolves 111: The Anthony Davis Game... The Sequel
In his fourth game back from a calf injury that sidelined him for 52 games, Towns scored 23 points on subpar efficiency. Gobert, on the other hand, recorded 14 points and 11 rebounds on 6-for-9 shooting.
Despite the Timberwolves’ bigs solid performance, Davis still lit up the stat sheet with 38 points and 17 rebounds. He scored 21 of the Lakers’ final 55 points, making eight of 13 shots from the field.
For the second game in a row, the Wolves were bullied by Davis on the interior. Their options for defending him in the non-Gobert minutes were minimal, with Towns and Anderson not quite posing as an adequate solution.
Los Angeles went on a 24-2 run over a six-minute stretch in the third quarter, a truly abysmal showing from a team that was fighting for footing in the Western Conference standings at this time.
Conley was a bright spot for Minnesota, as he led the team in scoring with 25 points on 7-for-11 shooting and dishing out seven assists.
What Might Resurface on Tuesday
The Anthony Davis Game... The Sequel to the Sequel?
Looking back on performances from Davis makes one cower at the thought of reliving this matchup, and without their best interior defender it’s somehow even scarier for Minnesota.
Not only will they be missing Gobert, but without Naz Reid — no matter his defensive impact — the front-court rotation will be dangerously thin. Towns will line up with Davis defensively for stretches, and Anderson for others. Expect Chris Finch to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him in the post, only to potentially provide opportunities for James and Russell to pick apart the scrambling defense.
A Trio of Revenge Games?
There’s no need to remind Timberwolves fans of Vanderbilt’s defensive impact. An incredibly versatile force, we’ll see Vando bother Edwards, Towns, Conley and whoever else shows up in a Minnesota uniform on Tuesday. He held Edwards in check in their matchup on March 31, flexing his swiss army knife ability on the defensive side of the ball. Ant finished with 11 points on 4-for-16 shooting.
When it couldn’t get any more miserable for fans at home, he splashed two triples to add insult to injury.
Despite not having great outings against the Wolves this season, Malik Beasley has been vocal about his desire to torch the team that traded him away.
Malik Beasley on his emotions heading into tonight against the Wolves: “Kill. Anybody. In front of me.”— Jon Krawczynski (@JonKrawczynski) October 21, 2022
Russell has said there’s no bad blood between him and the Timberwolves, but there’s always motivation to stick it to your former team. Plenty can be said about Russell’s tenure with Minnesota, but his performance during last season’s Play-In game in which he scored 29 points against the Los Angeles Clippers was tremendous.
A potent offensive threat like Beasley, if Russell gets hot, it will leave a long-lasting bitter taste in Wolves fans’ mouths.
Brilliance From Edwards and/or Towns
To wrap up on a positive note, Anthony Edwards and Karl-Anthony Towns playing for the same team is enough to give you a chance.
Edwards’ performances in last year’s playoffs serve as evidence that he shows up when the lights shine brightest, and Towns’ overall offensive gifts are enough to frustrate the opposition on any given night.