Well, this is for real now.
After an awful start and a mostly tumultuous season, the 43-39 Los Angeles Lakers are one step away from the playoffs. But they have to take care of one team that stands in their way, the Minnesota Timberwolves. If they’re not careful, the Lakers would instead have to take care of a second team in a do-or-die situation. And I’m positive they don’t want that.
Mark Medina has broken down the background on how the Lakers and Wolves got to this point. Well, I’m here to talk about what happened in their games against each other.
The Lakers and the Wolves played each other three times in the 2022-23 season and the Wolves won the first two games.
In Oct. 28th, Rudy Gobert had the 20-20 experience while the Lakers were having a fantastic time giving the ball way (22 turnovers). Minnesota took the victory, 111-102. By the way, Anthony Davis did not play in that game.
In Mar. 3rd, Anthony Davis did play while LeBron James was out. Davis played like a one-man team, scoring 38 points. Unfortunately, the lack of energy and focus doomed the Lakers as the Wolves won, 110-102. Gobert was once again the focal point as he had 22 points and 14 rebounds.
Mar. 31st was a big game for the Lakers. The Lakers got a scare when Davis got hurt in the third quarter. He stayed in and it somehow ignited a big run for Los Angeles. A 24-2 run during that quarter was a huge boost. Then Davis took it home at the end. He dropped another 38 points and got 17 boards (he scored 20 points after he got hurt). The Lakers won, 123-111. It also happened to be the first time in the regular season the Lakers went over .500.
Now this is going to be quite a problem for the Wolves. Gobert has been instrumental in Minnesota’s wins over the Lakers but he’s suspended for one game after his incident with Kyle Anderson. Jaden McDaniels is out indefinitely with a fractured hand. Considering how outstanding McDaniels is on the defensive end, it’s a huge blow to the Wolves. And let’s not forget that Naz Reid is still out with a wrist injury.
So the Wolves are going to have to depend on Anthony Edwards (who had a big third quarter in their first game), Karl-Anthony Towns (who shot the lights out in that same first game), and Mike Conley (who has been outstanding defensively against the Lakers and made the backbreaking three in their second game).
But who’s going to stop Anthony Davis? He scored 38 points in each of the two games he’s played. D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley, and Jarred Vanderbilt will all have revenge on their minds; they were all traded by the Wolves in the last 9 months (the latter two being dealt for Gobert). And LeBron James is certainly motivated for a chance at a fifth ring. I would like to think that the Lakers (who, by the way, are mostly healthy) are really going to be focused now that everything is on the line here. Because if they’re not engaged, they’re going to be in huge trouble.
It would be great if the Lakers can also cut down on their turnovers. They had 22, 15, and 16 in their three games against Minnesota. The Wolves are the type that forces turnovers, though, so it’s not too surprising but the Lakers would do well to take care of the rock.
We also want to see that flying defense that forced the Wolves to shoot some bad threes in their last match-up. Minnesota went 2 for 11 (.182) from three in that critical third quarter. Let’s see if they can make those swift and crisp defensive rotations.
The loser of this game does get a second chance so it’s not an elimination game; they move on to face the winner of the 9th (Pelicans) vs 10th seed (Thunder) game. Still, neither team wants to be put into that position.
In the meantime, the winner advances to the playoffs for the right to face the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies. That team also seems right for the picking as they have their own problems. But I don’t want to jump ahead just yet.
It’s too bad that we’re not getting a Patrick Beverley-led celebration in his game, though.