Back-to-Back Midwest swing: Los Angeles Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves Preview

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

The Lakers finish up one of their last road trips of the year, as they finish up a quick, back-to-back set in Minnesota tonight

Showtime: 5:00pm PT

Plot: The Lakers are a strange team, aren't they? They absolutely slaughter the Knicks on Tuesday, blowing out a 29-41 team by 30 points at home and setting a franchise single quarter scoring record. They precede that with a solid W against Orlando, a young squad teeming with talent but zero cohesion. And then they get on the road... and lose to the worst team in the NBA in the Milwaukee Bucks? Consistency, it seems, is not the name of the game in Los Angeles this year. And that certainly couldn't help them on the second night of a back-to-back against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Wolves are looking for a rare season series win over the Lakers tonight, as they've taken two out of three from LA thus far. Minnesota has spent the entire year hovering around .500, ending each and every month within a few games of the break even line. It's yet another disappointing year for the Timberwolves who currently hold the record for longest postseason drought in the NBA, now at 10 long seasons. At 7 games back with just about 10 to play, it's a long shot that they'll come within spitting distance of their stated preseason goal. With All-Star starter Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin in the fold, many expected Minny to contend for at least a low playoff seed, if not for something greater. Sadly, it's been the same old story up in the snowy Midwest--injuries and lack of development from another high draft pick.

Minnesota doesn't do anything fantastic, but they're solid, ranking 9th and 10th in offensive and defensive efficiency, respectively. They're just about what their record indicates--they're just fine, but nothing more. Even that should be more than enough to put away the Lakers these days. Maybe.

The Lakers looked fairly awful against a really bad Bucks team last night, looking into perhaps a mirror image of team full of freak athletes who haven't quite harnessed their physical gifts. The putrid Milwaukee offense mustered 55% shooting and dropped 108 points, 13 above their average. If the Lakers decide to play without the requisite energy to look even below average on defense (rather than horrific, I suppose), the Timberwolves could go absolutely bonkers tonight. Kevin Love is again having a phenomenal year, averaging 26/12/4, while shooting 38% from beyond the arc. He's yet to taste the playoffs in his sixth NBA season, leading some to suspect that he'll come back home to LA after next season when he can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. This, more than anything, may be the most interesting part of the game.

Los Angeles has been surprising at times this season, winning in second night of back-to-back sets on the road in Cleveland, Charlotte and Memphis. Depending on the effort of the competition, the never-say-die Lakers always come to play and could surprise the opposition on a moment's notice. At this point, it seems like it's entirely up to the other team whether or not they beat the Lakers. It's never really a question of if the opposing squad is more talented than LA. That's almost always a given. It's just a matter of effort.

Do the Timberwolves feel like beating LA tonight? Let's find out.

--MAMBINO

--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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