Lakers losing streak reaches 4 with loss to Timberwolves

Jesse Johnson- USA Today Sports
The Lakers lost to the Timberwolves on Thursday night and are now just one game over .500 entering next week.

The Lakers came into Minnesota without their franchise player LeBron James (who sat out due to an ankle issue and it being the second game of a back-to-back) and went toe-to-toe against the #1 seed in the Western Conference right now. I know the Lakers lost 118-111, but that was a game they realistically could and probably should have won despite not having their best player. Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura were excellent and kept the Purple and Gold in the game until the very end, but D’Angelo Russell really struggled in the first 3 quarters and that hurt the Lakers immensely. Either way, it was impressive that they even had a chance to win that game against a fully healthy Timberwolves team that has been playing excellent basketball.

Here are my three takeaways from the game:

With James sitting out the second game of a back-to-back, both Reaves and Davis needed to step up and be the focal points of the offense and they did just that. They were both extremely impressive in just keeping the shorthanded Lakers in the game against the #1 seed Timberwolves. Reaves finished with 20 points, 5 assists, and 7 rebounds while going 7-14 from the floor, and Davis had 31 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 blocks on the night.

Reaves has been flourishing off of the bench over his last 10 games, averaging 20.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 4.4 rebounds per game with an impressive eFG% of 60.3 during that span. Davis has also been excellent over his last 10 games averaging 29.8 points, 13.5 rebounds, and just under 2 blocks per game with an eFG% of 57 during that span. Reaves and Davis aren’t the problem, and if they continue to ball out on a nightly basis, the Lakers will undoubtedly start piecing together more wins on a nightly basis.

Rui Hachimura hasn’t been utilized to the degree many Laker fans would probably want him to be utilized, but without James he was able to join Reaves and Davis as one of the focal points of the offense and flourished. Hachimura finished with 18 points going 7-12 from the floor and grabbing 5 rebounds in 34 minutes on Friday.

As expected, with an increased role and increased minutes, Hachimura showed yet again what he could do with a lethal mid-range shot and multiple skill moves to get to the rack. Though there has been a lot of talk regarding Hachimura being included in a Zach LaVine trade or any other trade, it probably wouldn’t be wise to move such a gifted young player who has flourished in almost every big game he’s played in a Lakers uniform.

D’Angelo Russell had yet another underwhelming performance going just 7-19 from the floor with 17 points (a lot of them in garbage time once the Wolves padded their lead) and 8 assists on Thursday night. Russell started just 2-9 from the floor and if he’s not an efficient offensive threat on a nightly basis, he is almost unplayable considering his lackluster defense.

Over his last 5 games Russell has averaged just 9.4 points with a FG% of 34.5 and a 3PT% of 25, and during the stretch the Lakers have went just 1-4. Russell’s lack of offensive consistency is one of the biggest reasons why the team is on a cold stretch right now. When Russell’s shot creation isn’t working the Lakers have just 3 guys they can rely on (Sometimes 4 if Hachimura is included) on the offensive end in Reaves, Davis, and James. Either Lakers brass should consider trading Russell soon, or hope he can turn it around quick enough before the wheels fall off even more so than they already are.

The Lakers have to pick up a win against a tough Oklahoma City Thunder team on Saturday just to get momentum back on their side. Luckily, they will Friday off to recover and get right both mentally and physically.

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