The Timberwolves joined Houston's list of victims when they went down 108-126 on Tuesday. Karl-Anthony Towns continued his terrific form in the loss, putting up 35 points and 12 rebounds. They are now 35-25, and in fourth place in the Western Conference Standings, just half a game behind the Spurs in third.
The Lakers put in a second consecutive woeful defensive performance yesterday, conceding 139 points to the Pelicans on the way to a 22-point loss. Kyle Kuzma had 23 points off the bench. The defeat sent their record to 23-33, enough for 11th in the west. The Lakers don’t appear to be going anywhere soon as they are six games behind Utah in tenth and five games ahead of the Grizzlies in 12th.
Three keys to the game
Lakers’ defense - The Lakers have been solid without being spectacular on defense this season - they concede 105.4 points per 100 possessions. But things have taken a turn for the worst in the past two games. They gave up 130 points to a Dallas team with a woeful offense before allowing Anthony Davis and his Pelicans to score 139 yesterday. In these games, they have a defensive rating of 128, and this will need to change against a talented Timberwolves offense.
Karl-Anthony Towns - After receiving a reasonable amount of criticism this season, Towns has hit some serious form in the past week. In his last six games he is averaging 25.7 points on a huge 64.6% from the field and an outrageous 70% from beyond the arc. Against a Lakers side which really struggles to defend big guys, expect him to have a big game.
Fatigue - This will be the second road game in two days for the Lakers, and on such a young team this must have an effect. In eight such games this season they are 2-6, and have lost six in a row. The most recent of these was, coincidentally, an 18-point drubbing by the Timberwolves.
Matchup to watch
Brandon Ingram vs Jimmy Butler - Butler will spend a fair bit of time guarding the talented Ingram, and will make life difficult for the youngster. Ingram is having a breakout season, averaging 16.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per night, but he still has a long way to go to reach the heights of Butler at either end of the floor. The ex-Bull is enjoying his first season in Minnesota, putting up 22.4 points on 47.9% shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals a night. He has been in terrific form of late, and will be looking to give the rangy Ingram a few tips on how to play at the three in the NBA.
Minnesota Timberwolves predicted starting lineup
PG - Jeff Teague | SG - Andrew Wiggins | SF - Jimmy Butler | PF - Taj Gibson | C - Karl-Anthony Towns
Los Angeles Lakers predicted starting lineup
PG - Josh Hart | SG - Kentavious Caldwell-Pope | SF - Brandon Ingram | PF - Julius Randle | C - Brook Lopez
Butler has been instrumental in the Timberwolves' two victories over the Lakers this season. In the two matchups, he has averaged 25.5 points on 55.9% shooting, 8.5 assists, and 2.5 steals a night. This dominance is not localized to this season. In 11 career games against them, he averages a career-high 21.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, a career-high 4.8 assists, and 2.1 steals.
Towns averages a big double-double in his nine game career against the Lakers. He scores 23.3 points a game on 56.1% shooting and 12.8 rebounds, as well as 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks.
The over/under points total for this game has been set at 223, and this isn’t likely to be enough. Three of the past four games involving Minnesota have passed this total while both of the Lakers’ last two have comfortably exceeded it. For two teams which like playing offense a lot more than defense, expect this one to go over the total.
Minnesota shouldn’t have too many problems here. The Lakers are still adjusting to some new faces in their lineup and are in a patch of woeful defensive form. Minnesota are not an ideal team to come up against for a team struggling defensively, and with Towns and Butler both in terrific offensive form, expect the Timberwolves to put up a big score. They’ll run out comfortable winners with a 120-109 victory at home.
The game will be broadcast nationally on TNT. Tip-off is at 9pm ET.