A pair of struggling Western Conference teams will meet up in Los Angeles on Thursday night. The Los Angeles Lakers will host the Minnesota Timberwolves in a rematch of a game played earlier this month. Minnesota blew out the Lakers in that game, and Los Angeles will be looking for revenge.
The Timberwolves have won two straight games, but are still under the .500 mark for the season. Minnesota is just 23-24 through their first 47 games, and are in last place in the Northwest division. The Lakers have gone just 2-4 in their last six games, and are fading fast in the Western Conference. Los Angeles sits in third place in the Pacific Division, but are 8.5 games out. The Lakers are +1.5 against Minnesota in this game.
All Eyes on LeBron
The biggest storyline surrounding this game is the status of superstar LeBron James. James has not played since suffering a groin injury on Christmas Day, but sources have indicated that he is close to a return. The Lakers looked like a real contender in the Western Conference on the floor, but they aren’t the same team without him. Getting James fully healthy is the biggest priority for the Lakers at this point.
Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram are trying to pick up the slack without LeBron, but they need some help. The young forwards have combined to average better than 35 points and 11 rebounds per game this season and look like future NBA stars. Los Angeles has struggled on the defensive end of the floor, giving up close to 112 points per game. The Lakers should be a playoff team this season, but they need to turn their season back around soon.
Towns Looking Like NBA All-Star
When the Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler earlier this season, many experts thought that Minnesota was giving up on the season. Instead, Karl-Anthony Towns has elevated his game and is carrying the Timberwolves on offense. Towns had 25 points, 18 rebounds, and seven assists on Tuesday night, and should be an All-Star this season. The Timberwolves are playing much better of late, and Towns is a big reason why.
The Timberwolves are right around league average in both offense and defense, and their record is a reflection of that. Minnesota has a collection of talented veterans, but they don’t always mesh on the court. Point guard Derrick Rose is averaging 19 points per game this season and has returned to his old form. The Timberwolves are an extremely hard team to figure out this season, but they aren’t consistent enough to be a playoff team.
Lakers Win at Home
Keeping an eye on the LeBron situation is important regarding this game, but it shouldn’t really matter. The Timberwolves are just 7-16 on the road so far this season, and the Lakers play well at the Staples Center. If LeBron suits up for this game, the Lakers have a big edge, but they will still win without him. There is a reason that the Wolves are under .500 and it will show in this game. Bet the Los Angeles Lakers +1.5 over the Minnesota Timberwolves.