The Los Angeles Lakers dropped what should have been at least a fairly winnable game at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-105, despite having Rajon Rondo back in the lineup.
The story of Thursday night really started and ended on the glass. Minnesota feasted on the boards offensively no matter who was playing center for the Lakers. Ivica Zubac, who made his first start of the season, finished the game with a -10 plus-minus, and JaVale McGee (-1) didn’t do much in his 22 minutes to quell the onslaught Minnesota brought on the glass.
Luke Walton deserves some criticism for his continued inability to stagger his rotation when the Lakers absolutely need him to. Once again, as was predicted in the preview, he had lineups out there with neither Brandon Ingram nor Rondo running the offense. Quite frankly, this is an explicable mistake at this point.
The game took an ugly turn in the fourth quarter, as the Lakers were outscored 36-23. Right from the beginning of the period, the Lakers were out of sorts on both ends of the court. They made a couple runs to try to make it a game, but were never really close enough to make Minnesota nervous.
As if merely losing a game with playoff implications wasn’t enough, Luol Deng (7 points on 3-4 shooting) made an appearance and dribbled out the clock. Thursday night had to feel pretty good for him. He didn’t offer himself that contract.
This loss dropped the Lakers to 25-24, just half a game ahead of the Timberwolves (now 24-24). Minnesota now owns the tiebreaker if it comes to that, having won the season series 3-1.
As a result of this loss, the Lakers will play their latest must-win against a lesser opponent as they take on the Phoenix Suns on Sunday before entering a much tougher month of their schedule. Instead of coasting in off of a feel-good win, they’ll now enter that contest with no momentum, and have no one but themselves to blame.
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