Here is what you need to know before the Lakers open up 2018 by visiting the Minnesota Timberwolves.
It wasn’t just the obvious plays for Julius Randle, who piled up a season-high 29 points and 15 rebounds in Sunday’s loss to Houston.The fourth-year Laker brought it in every facet of the game, from scoring and rebounding to passing and screening.He also pitched in six assists and four screen assists before fouling out halfway through the first overtime period. But it was an encouraging performance in Randle’s second start at center this season.Offensively, he dusted Houston’s bigs off the dribble and in pick-and-rolls. We’ll see how effective he is against Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, who is coming off a six-block performance.
It took more than a big game from Randle for the Lakers to duke it out with the Rockets in double overtime.Tyler Ennis and Josh Hart served as the starting backcourt, and both made the most of the opportunity by taking advantage of Houston’s lack of paint defense.Hart, the 30th pick of the draft, poured in a season-best 26 points on 9-of-13 shooting. Meanwhile, Ennis piled up 20 points and 11 assists.The Lakers have struggled to fill in the absence of Lonzo Ball, trying Jordan Clarkson and Brandon Ingram at starting point guard to wavering success. If Ennis can turn in similar production against the Wolves, it will behoove the Lakers’ offense.
Minnesota has won six of its last seven games, including against the Lakers on Christmas night.Their offense has been red-hot even though the Wolves make the second-fewest 3-pointers in the league (and only hit four in a 17-point win over Indiana on Sunday).During this stretch, Jimmy Butler has found his stride as the Wolves’ alpha. Over the last seven games he is the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer (28.9 ppg) and has shot 53.3 percent from the field with 9.1 free throws.Butler is also a nice secondary playmaker and a menace on defense.Meanwhile, Tyus Jones is starting at point guard in place of an injured Jeff Teague. Jones is hunting lazy passes, averaging 3.8 steals in five games as a starter.Injury Report
Lakers: Lonzo Ball (left shoulder sprain), Brook Lopez (right ankle sprain) and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (personal reasons) are out. Timberwolves: Jeff Teague (sprained left MCL) is out.
Tip-Off: 5 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: MPLS Blue
Location: Target Center — Minneapolis, MinnesotaClick here to view game notes for this contest.