Lakers at Timberwolves Preview: Lakers look to jump Timberwolves for 7th seed

Must-win game. That’s the situation the Lakers find themselves in on Friday night as they head to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves hold a 0.5-game lead over Los Angeles for the 7th seed in the Western Conference. 

A win would propel the Lakers to the 7th seed and put them in a better position for playoff seeding.

Los Angeles is back at full strength (with the exception of Mo Bamba), and they have looked like a great team. They are 4-0 when LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and D’Angelo Russell are all in the lineup.

This includes their victory on Wednesday night over the Bulls, where Davis had 38 points and 10 rebounds, James had 25 points and 7 rebounds, Russell had 17 points, and Austin Reaves had 19 points.

While the starters had a good game, there was poor bench production, which must be fixed in the remaining six games.

It was Darvin Ham’s 38th starting lineup of the season and the best one yet. The lineup of Russell, Reaves, James, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Davis is an elite starting five, as they have a good balance of offense and defense. 

This lineup will face off against the Timberwolves' starting unit of Mike Conley, Anthony Edwards, Jaden McDaniels, Karl-Anthony Towns, and Rudy Gobert.

Towns recently returned from injury after missing 52 games with a Grade 3 calf strain. 

With Towns back in the lineup, Ham will have to figure out his matchups defensively. Vanderbilt has been guarding the opposing team’s best wing (in this case, Edwards), but with two bigs in the lineup, he will likely guard Towns.

That would leave Reaves as the most likely candidate to guard Edwards, while Russell would be on Conley, James on McDaniels, and Davis on Gobert. 

Containing Edwards and Towns will be the key to winning this game on the road. If the Lakers are committed on the defensive end from the start, it will go a long way in adding this game to the win column. 

Offensively, Los Angeles must feed James and Davis, who take up much of the defense’s attention. In Wednesday’s contest against Chicago, James, and Davis were often double-teamed in the post, which led to open looks for their teammates, who converted a good amount of them. 

When James and Davis were left one on one, they were able to get a bucket.

While McDaniels and Gobert, both elite defenders, will likely match up against the Lakers’ stars, James and Davis still have the ability to beat them more times than not.

"We can definitely make a run," Davis said. "We’ve got all the right pieces from top to bottom."

The keys to winning this game are to limit turnovers, limit Edwards and Towns, and have more production with their bench unit.

If the Lakers can do those three things, they should find themselves in the 7th seed in the Western Conference and improve to 39-38 on the season.

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