Carmelo Anthony dribbles into the lane

Three Things to Know: Lakers vs Timberwolves - 1/2/22

by Matthew Barrero

The Lakers (18-19) played some of their best ball of the season and closed out 2021 with a 139-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers. Tonight, they welcome the Minnesota Timberwolves (16-19), a team whom they have not defeated this season. Catch the pregame show at 5:30 p.m. PT and tipoff at 6:30 p.m. PT, all on Spectrum SportsNet.

Here are three things to know before tonight’s contest:

WHO’S IN, WHO’S OUT
For the Lakers, the only players listed on the status report are Anthony Davis (left knee, MCL sprain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise). While the lack of Davis plays a significant role, the team finds itself at its healthiest with many key assets returning after they tested out of the league’s health and safety protocols.

Austin Reaves and Trevor Ariza were the most notable names to play significant minutes Friday night. In 27 minutes, Reaves scored 10 points and recorded one rebound, one assist and one steal, posting a +13. Ariza made just one three-pointer but added four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes.

Minnesota, meanwhile, will enter tonight with a somewhat depleted roster. Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell headline the T’Wolves status report, as both will be out for the game due to being placed in the league’s health and safety protocols.

On top of that, Anthony Edwards, Taurean Prince, Jarred Vanderbilt and McKinley Wright IV are experiencing a return to competition reconditioning. They are currently listed as questionable ahead of tonight’s meeting.

ROLE REVERSAL
The Lakers have yet to defeat Minnesota this season and in both contests the T’Wolves have been able to outperform the Lake Show.

The biggest factor has been K.A.T (Karl-Anthony Towns), who is averaging 28.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and is shooting almost 60 percent from the field and 43 percent from three-point range. Towns has also been a force inside the key, which is no surprise to anyone.

Additionally, Russell has played well against his former employer, totaling 39 points, 13 assists, and nine rebounds in both games combined.

L.A. has not had to worry about Anthony Edwards in the two meetings, as Edwards was not much of a factor in the first meeting and did not play in the most recent matchup. Given the circumstances of Minnesota’s roster, expect the 20-year-old to take control of the team’s offense and look to lead his team to victory.

Tonight offers an opportunity for the Lakers to turn the tables and come out on top when the final horn sounds, given their healthier lineup and a more cohesive unit finding a rhythm.

CARRY MOMENTUM
In case you have not been paying attention, LeBron James is still really good at basketball. The newly turned 37-year-old played emphatically Friday night, finishing with a season-high 43 points to go along with 14 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

In a seven-game stretch, LBJ is averaging 36.0 PPG and is shooting 58.0 percent from the field. His is the first Laker with seven-straight 30-plus point games since Kobe Bryant (2012) and is the oldest player in NBA history with seven-straight 30-plus point games.

While “The King” continues to prove that age is really just a number, the Lakers as a whole have played well of late, despite some of their results.

Russell Westbrook has recorded a triple-double in four-straight games, following his 15 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists performance Friday night. A major stat to know is that when Russ records a triple-double, his team is 140-50.

On top of the dynamic duo, Malik Monk has stepped up drastically over the last four games, averaging 19.5 points while playing 30-plus minutes in each. He is shooting 58.0 percent from the field, 42.0 percent from three, and has not missed a free throw in his last 14 attempts.

Newcomer Stanley Johnson has also found himself playing crucial minutes thanks in large part to his defensive prowess and Carmelo has been knocking down several big shots, including one that pushed him up to 15th on the NBA’s all-time field goals made list.

Needless to say, the Lakers have some momentum entering 2022.

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