2 Keys to Victory: Lakers vs. Timberwolves
Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images
The 15-13 Los Angeles Lakers enter tonight’s contest versus the 20-6 Minnesota Timberwolves as the eighth seed in the Western Conference. Coming off a three-game losing streak, they will have another tough test on the road tonight against the top seed in the West.
Both LeBron James (ankle) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are out tonight, and though LA is undefeated this season without James, Anthony Davis’ status is unclear as well.
With seemingly all the odds stacked against the Lakers in this one, let’s look at some keys to victory tonight.
Timberwolves:— Timberwolves Muse (@Wolvesmuse) December 19, 2023
—First West team to 20 wins
— #1 in the West for a month
— #1 Defense
17 point comeback tonight pic.twitter.com/CVtvTHyDbh
The Timberwolves are the second-best team in the association in terms of win percentage this year, thanks in large part to their defense. Minnesota has a league-low 107.5 defensive rating and a league-low opposing FG% of 43.9%.
These numbers only get better at home. In Minnesota, the Timberwolves sport an 11-1 record, with an unbelievably low 100.1 defensive rating to pair with their opposing FG% of only 40.5% as well as an opposing 3P% of 29.0%.
It’s safe to say that scoring against this Minnesota team is no breeze, especially without arguably the league’s greatest scorer ever in the lineup.
If Anthony Davis suits up, they’ll have to rely on his scoring ability to generate offense and expect key role players such as Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, and Taurean Prince to carry the extra load in the scoring department.
The Lakers rebounding ranks— CL Owens 🏀 🇺🇸 (@CSmoove_Sports) December 19, 2023
defensive rebounding 2nd
28th in offensive rebs
Rank 12th overall in total rebs.
Can't expect for AD to grab all the offensive boards. He needs another big who will help. This is screaming Drummond all day
Fortunately for the Lakers, the Timberwolves offense hasn’t matched the strength of their defense.
While Minnesota does have solid efficiency statistics, ranking in the top third of the league in both FG% and 3P%, the Timberwolves rank in the bottom half of the league in offensive rating at 113.9.
This is largely due to their inability to crash the offensive boards and get second-chance opportunities. Minnesota is 25th in the league in this category at only 9.9 per game, directly leading to their league-worst 85.3 FGA per game.
The Lakers fortunately rank second in the league in defensive rebounds at 35.5, meaning that if they can find some way to generate offense, they could find themselves in this game due to their disruption on the defensive end.
Head Coach Darvin Ham and the team will need to focus defensively and capitalize on Minnesota’s offensive struggles for their best shot in this one.
If the Lakers can pull this one out, they’ll look to build on their newfound momentum ahead of Saturday’s game against another top Western Conference team, the Oklahoma City Thunder.