Coming off of their thrilling overtime win against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday, the Los Angeles Lakers (34-44) will try and continue to play spoiler for teams still fighting for a playoff spot as they host the Minnesota Timberwolves (44-35) Friday at STAPLES Center.
The Timberwolves are in the thick of one of the most tight NBA playoff races in recent memory with just one game separating the No. 5 seed and the No. 10 seed. Minnesota are currently seeded at No. 8 after losing to the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.
It’s kind of hard to follow, but trust me, there’s a reason this playoff race is of particular interest to Lakers fans, even if the Lakers have virtually no chance of making the postseason.
If both the Wolves and the New Orleans Pelicans win their games tonight, there’s a good chance the Oklahoma City Thunder fall to the No. 8 seed by Saturday night after they face the Houston Rockets. But wait, there’s more.
If the Thunder finish their last three games 1-2 or worse and the Nuggets win every game for the rest of the season, there’s a chance the Thunder miss out on the postseason completely. No offense, but if Paul George wanted to miss the playoffs this year, he could have done that in Los Angeles.
Does that mean you should be actively rooting for the Lakers to lose on Friday? No, but you also wouldn’t be a terrible fan if you did.
Here are the projected starters for Friday:
PG: Tyler Ennis/Jeff Teague
SG: Kentavious Caldwell-Pope/Andrew Wiggins
SF: Kyle Kuzma/Jimmy Butler
PF: Julius Randle/Taj Gibson
C: Brook Lopez/Karl Anthony-Towns
The Lakers will be without Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram again on Friday as they nurse their way back to full health. Alex Caruso has started in place of Ball since his injury, but after playing three games in three nights with the Lakers and the South Bay Lakers, who were eliminated from the G League playoffs on Thursday, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Ennis get the starting nod in light of his recent play.
The keys for the Lakers on Friday will be killing the Wolves in the paint. Minnesota is in the lower half of the league in blocks per game (4.2) and rebounds per game (41.8), two areas the Lakers are in the top-10. Expect the Lakers to try and feed their post players, like Julius Randle, Brook Lopez and Channing Frye early and often.
The Lakers can also live with letting the Timberwolves shoot. The Wolves attempt the fewest 3-pointers per game in the NBA and make them at a below average rate (35.7 percent). Outside of Towns and Nemanja Bjelica, their threats on the perimeter aren’t threats at all.
Whether you’re rooting for the Lakers to come out with the win or not, enjoy the game!
Time: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: NBA TV, Spectrum SportsNet