The Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves have lost a combined seven games in a row. When the two teams square off at the Target Center tonight, each with the intention of claiming their first victory in at least a week, something, as the saying goes, has gotta give.
After sprinting out to a surprising 4-2 record to start the season, the Wolves have come back to Earth in a big way, winning only four games since for a cumulative record of 8-12 on the year. In spite of their losing ways, there have been plenty of positives to aid Minnesota fans in weathering what will likely be another lottery-bound campaign. In identifying those rays of hope, look no further than young studs Andrew Wiggins and top overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns, who, along with Zach LaVine and Ricky Rubio, anchor one of the more promising cores of young talent.
Although the T-Wolves haven't accumulated as many wins as they might like, they haven't been awful either. Minnesota is firmly in the middle of the pack in defensive efficiency and point differential (16th in both), while ranking a pretty-bad-but-not-totally-horrendous 20th in offensive efficiency, ahead of playoff teams from last season such as the Washington Wizards and Memphis Grizzlies.
Towns has made an immediate impact on both ends of the floor, looking every bit the budding superstar he was billed as coming out of college, flashing his game-changing defensive potential on his way to blocking 2.2 shots per game and altering countless others. Wiggins, in spite of an icy evening against the Clippers on Monday and some mild regression in field goal percentage, assists and rebounds, has been on a scoring tear, averaging 21.1 ppg on the year while putting up at least 20 points in 11 of his last 14 contests.
The elder members of the Wolves' buddy system development plan are playing about how you'd expect. Andre Miller can still pass the rock with the best of them when not picking up DNP's, Kevin Garnett continues to be ornery as all hell while providing a strong veteran presence and occasionally dunking on his younger counterparts, and Tayshaun Prince still... is.
As for the Lakers, it's anyone's guess as to how they'll look game to game, especially with Byron Scott's recent decision to move his two most prized assets to the bench. However, in spite of the murky coaching decisions and uncertain future hanging over the Lakers, there are, of course, still plenty of things to watch for when the team takes the floor tonight. One of which is a continuation of the string of double-doubles put together by Julius Randle and what appears to be an increase in aggressiveness from D'Angelo Russell in spite of the pair being moved to the pine ahead of Monday's in Toronto. Jordan Clarkson will also look to shake off his two-game shooting slump and return to the consistency that has colored most of his season thus far.
In addition to trying to corral the Wolves' pack of young athletes on the perimeter, Kobe Bryant will also check one more city off on his farewell tour in what will be his final visit to Minneapolis. After stopping the game last season to honor Bryant's passing of Michael Jordan on the NBA's all-time scoring list, it should come as no surprise if the T-Wolves have a little something in store for Bryant as the city bids adieu to an all-time great.
Time: 5:00 p.m. PT
TV: TWCSN, FSN