LeBron James shoots over Karl-Anthony Towns

Lakers vs. Wolves: Three Things to Know (12/27/20)

by Mike Trudell
Lakers Reporter

The Lakers (1-1) are set to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves (2-0) at 7 p.m. on Spectrum SportsNet in the third regular season game of the 2020-21 season.

Below are three things to know ahead of the matchup:

PLAYING AGAINST A PREMIER STRETCH FIVE
Karl Anthony Towns is a terrific post up player, but he’s increasingly hurt defenses with his ability to shoot the three, going from 4.6 threes attempted per game in 2018-19 to 7.9 in 2019-20, of which he hit 41.2 percent, a blistering hit rate for a big man (or anybody). L.A.’s new starting center, Marc Gasol, is a terrific interior and positional defender, but his defensive range doesn’t ideally extend to chasing a fellow center out to the three-point line.

Typically, Frank Vogel could simply turn to Anthony Davis at center, but since he's out with a calf contusion, that won't be an option. Instead, he can keep Gasol on him and hope the threes don't fall, or try to put Montrezl Harrell or Markieff Morris on KAT, and perhaps use some traps here and there.

L.A.’s FIREPOWER
We all know what LeBron James and Anthony Davis bring to an NBA offense, as best exemplified in last year’s postseason. LeBron, the Finals MVP, averaged 27.6 points on 56.0 percent field goals; Davis put up 27.7 points per night on 57.1 percent shooting, including 38.3 percent from three. And that’s when defenses are at their best, in theory able to lock in on opponents. So, that type of elite efficiency makes it pretty easy on the rest of the roster. Fast forward to Friday’s 138-115 win against Dallas: the stars combined for a quick 50 points on 52.9 percent field goals (6 of 13 from three).

So, when three other players also score really efficiently, Frank Vogel can just use the word “firepower.”

Indeed, Montrezl Harrell hit 10 of 13 shots for 22 points; Dennis Schroder had 18 on 7 of 11 FG’s; and Kyle Kuzma added 13 on 5 of 11 attempts. Of course, the Lakers won’t have five players score so easily every night, but they’ll usually have at least LeBron and/or AD do it, which leaves considerable margin for error for the talented supporting cast. With AD out, LAL can look to any of those three to step into the offensive void.

The Wolves can only focus their defensive attention in so many areas. They held Detroit to 101 points and Utah to 111, looking better than many expected, but the defending champs present a different challenge, if one that's mitigated by AD's absence.

NO. 1 PICK CONVENTION!
Minnesota selected Anthony Edwards out of Georgia with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 Draft, pairing him with the No. 1 pick in 2015, Towns. Of course the Lakers have their own No. 1 tandem, with LeBron (2003) and AD (2012).

Through two games, Edwards has impressed, averaging 16.5 points on 54.2 percent shooting plus 2.5 boards and 2.5 assists off the bench in Minnesota’s 2-0 start. Various scouting reports took issue with Edwards’ motor at Georgia, but he was all over the place in his first two NBA games. Meanwhile, the Wolves have gotten zero points from their power forward position (Jake Layman and Juancho Hernangomez) on a collective 0 for 9 shooting struggle. Though Edwards projects as more of an (oversized) 2/3, he’s big and strong enough to play the four in certain situations. Of course, AD certainly isn’t the best matchup for anybody!

Nonetheless, expect to see a lot of the 19-year-old as he gets another look at former No. 1 overall picks after seeing Blake Griffin (2009) in Minnesota’s opener.

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