The Lakers will have their full rotation back for only the third game this season when they head to Minnesota to take on the dysfunctional Timberwolves.
Brandon Ingram is set to rejoin the team after serving his four-game suspension from participating in the last week’s fracas with the Houston Rockets. The Lakers got back point guard Rajon Rondo after his suspension was lifted in their last contest, a 110-106 loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
With the team getting back the services of two of their more prominent contributors, head coach Luke Walton has the taxing dilemma of figuring out who will now be left out of the starting lineup.
The Lakers decided to stick with Lonzo Ball as their starting point guard despite Rondo’s solid play prior to the suspension, and in Ingram’s absence both Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart have displayed promising on-court chemistry with LeBron James.
While going 2-2 in Ingram’s absence, the Lakers’ offense has hummed with the spacing Kuzma and Hart have offered James once he sucked in opposing defenses. However, the team’s perimeter defense has been severely exploited, specifically when matched up with DeMar DeRozan and the Spurs.
Prior to his suspension, Ingram looked to have come into the new season with a new dedication to making an impact on the defensive end, with encouraging early results.
According to Cleaning the Glass, the Lakers were allowing a 107 defensive rating (how many points their opponents would score per 100 possessions) when Ingram was on the floor in the two games he appeared in, and a 114.6 rating when he was off.
Ingram seemingly had begun figuring out how to use his absurd wingspan functionally, utilizing his length to get into passing lanes and alter shots. Although it’s only a small sample, opponents were shooting only 37 percent against Ingram’s contests, which leads the team.
On the Timberwolves’ end, one only needs to see that Jimmy Butler is still employed by the team to figure out how the start of their season is going.
Currently posting the same 2-4 record as the Lakers, the team enters Monday’s matchup losers of their previous two games, including a 30-point blowout loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in their last contest.
Butler, who has publicly made his disgruntlement with the team for their unwillingness to trade him known by all, scored only four points in 24 minutes in the loss to Miami.
On the season, the Timberwolves have been noticeably poor on the defensive end, and are currently in possession of the 26th-worst defensive rating in the NBA (115.6). The team has been especially unable to stop opponents at the rim, allowing the sixth-highest field goal percentage within four feet (66.9 percent) in the league.
For the Lakers, a team who up to this point have been unable to find their outside shooting stroke, could and should look to exploit the Wolves’ soft underbelly.
The purple and gold have made an absolute living in the paint this season, ranking first in the league in frequency of attempts at the rim and third in finishing those looks.
With a favorable matchup against a team who is currently in disarray, plus Ingram’s return, the Lakers will hopefully get a jolt in the arm on Monday and get back to their winning ways after letting a game slip away on Saturday.
Time: 5:00 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet, NBA TV
Statistics provided by Cleaning the Glass, NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @AlexmRegla.