The Los Angeles Lakers try to extend their three-game winning streak when they take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. The opening tip is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET at the Target Center in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles pulled out an overtime victory over the host Dallas Mavericks in its last game on Tuesday, improving to 16-13. The Lakers are tied for third place in the Pacific Division with the LA Clippers, with both teams trailing the first-place Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns by 7½ games.
The Timberwolves have won two in a row, including a 124-107 win on the road against the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday. Minnesota is 13-15 and in third place in the Northwest Division, one game behind the second-place Nuggets and 7½ games behind the first-place Utah Jazz.
If you want to bet online on this contest, the NBA lines have the Timberwolves as two-point favorites at home, with the over/under set at 221½ points.
Los Angeles Lakers vs Minnesota Timberwolves
Next Man Up
The Lakers are scrambling to put together enough of a roster to play, to the point that they are signing free-agent guard Isaiah Thomas to a 10-day contract prior to this contest. Los Angeles had to place guards Russell Westbrook and Avery Bradley in the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Thursday, joining center Dwight Howard and guard Talen Horton-Tucker. Guard Malik Monk tested out of the protocols on Thursday.
Because of so many personnel losses, the Lakers are hoping for a hardship exemption to be able to expand their roster. If they get that exemption, they’re expected to sign Thomas.
Someone who will play — very well — is LeBron James, who is averaging 29.1 points, 6.8 rebounds, 7.7 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 1.6 steals over his last nine games. James didn’t play in the first meeting with Minnesota, which ended in a 24-point Timberwolves victory on the road.
The Lakers will also be looking for a big game from forward Anthony Davis, who is averaging 23.8 points, 10.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.1 blocks per game. He’ll likely be matched up with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and will need to match Towns’ output for the Lakers to win.
The sub-.500 record of the Timberwolves might not look great to most, but compared to last season’s total of 23 wins, having 13 victories before Christmas is pretty good for the up-and-coming squad. Minnesota defeated Denver in the regular season for the first time since 2017-18 on Tuesday, though coach Chris Finch doesn’t want this team defined by past troubles.
“I don’t really buy in too much into what happened before,” Finch said after Tuesday’s win. “I just try to get us as ready to play as possible. I don’t think the guys really sensed anything that we haven’t beaten these guys in 12 attempts. Players are unique that way — they always think they’re going to win the next game.”
Forward Anthony Edwards is having a breakout second season for the Timberwolves, coming off a 38-point performance against the Nuggets in which he hit 10 3-pointers. Edwards is averaging 22.1 points per game to rank second on Minnesota, and his athleticism causes a lot of trouble for defenders.
Towns paces the Timberwolves with 24.3 points and 9.0 rebounds per game. His production is important, but so is his presence in the paint, especially against a bigger team like the Lakers.
Guard D’Angelo Russell will try to have a big game against his former team. Russell is averaging 18.8 points and 6.4 assists per game, but he went for 22 points and seven assists in the earlier meeting with Los Angeles.
Timberwolves Get Win
Los Angeles is having its troubles with getting a consistent lineup, and James and Davis are having to do a lot of work on their own of late. A spark from a Thomas signing might be nice, but it won’t be enough to get the Lakers a road win in this one.
When doing your NBA betting, take Minnesota to win and cover at home.
Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves -2