The Timberwolves have a chance for four wins in a row, and will go for it under the big lights.
Not only will they go for a victory in the final slot of the coveted Christmas Day lineup on TNT – which will be broadcast on TNT by the Inside the NBA crew – in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
The last three wins have been against a slew of different competitive levels on paper, but all three games have come down to the wire. With that in mind, it’s hard for them to take the Lakers lightly.
While a bit higher in the standings than some may have expected at this point, the Lakers are still a non-factor in the Western Conference playoff race.
For all their faults, they do sit in the top 10 in defensive rating, thanks in large part to the teaching of Luke Walton.
According to a piece by SB Nation Blog Silver Screen and Roll, the energy level of the Lakers never really fades, and the young legs of their starting lineup helps them keep their defense strong for all four quarters.
But while their defense is surprisingly strong, their offense is as uninspiring as you’d expect. Their bottom-four offensive rating occurs because the guys they hoped key contributors before the season started have yet to show up.
Brook Lopez – who they acquired in a trade for DeAngelo Russell – is shooting under 30 percent from 3-point land. Kentavius Caldwell-Pope – who they signed to a massive $18 million contract, albeit for just one year – is shooting under 34 percent from deep.
Lonzo Ball has had struggles of his own – shooting 34 percent from the field and 29 percent from 3-point land – but has unquestionably had some flashes of brilliance.
But if you were planning on seeing the highly-publicized rookie, you’ll have to wait.
An MRI on Lonzo Ball’s left shoulder revealed a “shoulder sprain,” per the Lakers. Ball will miss tomorrow’s game against Minnesota and be reevaluated in one week. He suffered the injury in the 2nd Q of Saturday’s game vs. Portland.
— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) December 24, 2017
Still, the most promising rookie this year, so far, hasn’t been their top pick.
Kyle Kuzma, the 27th overall pick in the 2017 draft, has been the best rookie, and player, on the Lakers this season. He’s leading the Lakers in scoring, field goal percentage, 3-pointers made and 3-point percentage.
According to his own teammate, he was drafted so low because of he simply wasn’t the player in college that he is now.
“In college he wasn’t that good, to be honest. I don’t even remember him when we played him,” Ball said in September.
Ball is a triple double threat, Caldwell-Pope is a scoring threat, and Kuzma is an all-around offensive threat, and Brandon Ingram has put it all together recently, but the Lakers as a team haven’t put it all together yet.
But the Wolves, albeit 20-13 on the season, have struggled with teams like this. They almost lost to one on Saturday.
And this time, for better or worse, the lights will be on.
- The Wolves called up Anthony Brown and Justin Patton from Iowa, and will be around in time for Monday’s game in Los Angeles. It’s unlikely either will get minutes, but will still be valuable for both of them to get practice time with the big club.
- Speaking of playing time, how close is Nemanja Bjelica to a return to the rotation? “A game or two” away, according to Tom Thibodeau, as reported by Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune.
- UPDATE: Thibodeau said Monday that Bjelica is “pretty much ready to go”, and is a game-time decision. It’s sounding more promising for the stretch big than it has in a while.
- Saturday’s win gave them 20 on the season. It’s the first time they’ve hit the 20-win mark by Jan. 1 since the 2003-04 season.
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