(Photo By: Ty Nowell/Lakers.com)
Lakers at Timberwolves: 3 Things to Know (2/15/18)
Here is what you need to know before the Lakers’ final game before the All-Star Break.
1) Defense, defense, defense
The Lakers have lost back-to-back games, and that certainly isn’t for a lack of scoring.
Over the last two outings, L.A. has averaged 120 points on 52.9 percent shooting, essentially getting whatever it wants on the offensive side.
Unfortunately for the purple and gold, they have given back even more on the defensive end, where Dallas racked up 130 points and New Orleans poured in 139.
Defensive communication has been the main issue according to the players and coach Luke Walton. Whether that’s failing to call out switches or help from the weak side in pick-and-rolls, the Lakers need to get back to the defense that had them surging just days ago.
During their 12-4 run prior to these losses, the Lakers were third in the NBA in defensive efficiency. Over the last two, they are, predictably, last.
2) Randle continues his dominance
Julius Randle has no time to worry about the defender in front of him. It’s gotten to the point where he is willing to post up just about anyone.
Randle has been one of the league’s most efficient pick-and-roll finishers this season, but the last seven games have seen him shift his attack to the post, where he has dominated whomever the opponent has sent to defend him.
The 24-year-old is averaging 20.3 points on 61.5 percent shooting during this stretch, and the majority of that has come in the post.
Last game, he took it right to an elite shot blocker, Anthony Davis, and destroyed a matchup with Nikola Mirotic. We’ll see what he’s got in store for Taj Gibson (a stout defender) and Karl-Anthony Towns.
2) Julius Randle has overpowered every matchup during the Lakers' win streak.— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) February 10, 2018
He has put up 19.0 points (primarily by bulldozing opponents in the post), prompting Magic Johnson to say, "This is the best I've ever seen him play." pic.twitter.com/IBaOlCDVVr
3) Minnesota is like a mirror
Like the Lakers’ last two games, the Timberwolves have no problem scoring but plenty of defensive issues. The difference is that Minnesota has been able to shoot its way to victory.
The Wolves are the NBA’s sixth-highest scoring team, but allow the league’s highest opponent field goal percentage (47.8).
It’s possible to mitigate those defensive woes when a team has so much talent on offense.
Jimmy Butler leads the team in scoring, sets his teammates up with assists and is a savant at getting to the foul line. Karl-Anthony Towns leads the NBA in double-doubles, posts up with ease and shoots 3-pointers better than any other center.
Plus, there’s Andrew Wiggins, who always seems to step up when its time to play the Lakers.
L.A. is 0-2 against Minnesota this season, and will need to get back to its defensive-minded ways in order to pick up the W.
Lakers: Lonzo Ball (sore left knee) is out.
Tip-Off: 6 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes in L.A. TNT nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Purple Statement
Location: Target Center — Minneapolis, Minnesota