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Lakers vs. Timberwolves Preview: Has the team turned things around?

The Lakers have won two games in a row despite mounting injuries. With so many players remaining out, will they be able to continue down the right path against the Timberwolves on Friday night?

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Miami Heat v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Their next game will see the Los Angeles Lakers continue an early part of their season that is heavily weighted towards playing in the Staples Center, this time welcoming the Minnesota Timberwolves into town for a Friday night matchup.

The game comes on the heels of one of the Lakers’ more surprising wins of the season, as they beat the Miami Heat, 120-117, in their third overtime game of the season. Further adding to the unlikeliness of the victory was that Rajon Rondo and Austin Reaves came into the game questionable before eventually being ruled out, as the Lakers bench seemed to have more guys in street clothes than basketball uniforms (to be fair, Heat star Jimmy Butler did leave very early in the game with an ankle sprain).

The team will now look to win three games in a row this season for the second time against the Timberwolves, and they should have a good shot. The young Wolves come in as losers of their last seven games with only the Thunder, Magic, Rockets, Pistons, and Pelicans ranking below them in net rating up to this point.

Have the Lakers hit a turning point?

Even without Jimmy Butler on the court, most Lakers fans would have laughed in your face if you would have told them this past Sunday they’d be beating the Heat on Wednesday.

On that day, the Lakers were coming off arguably their worst loss of their season (and that’s saying something, with two losses against the Thunder). The Portland Trail Blazers had beaten them 105-90 the night before, and it was way worse than that final even reflects, as the team was down by 36-14 after the first quarter was over. The Trail Blazers weren’t done pummeling the Lakers, as the lead ballooned to as much as 34 heading into the final frame.

As Frank Vogel put it after the Lakers beat the Heat on Wednesday, the Lakers got their “butts kicked” by the Blazers. However, the loss might have been a blessing in disguise for these up-and-down Lakers, as the leaders of the team felt the need to bring it up multiple times on Wednesday as a wake-up call for the team.

“That Portland loss, we took that personally. We’re not that type of team,” Anthony Davis explained. “No energy, no effort. A little bit of selfishness, and we just tried to change that... Guys are having fun, guys are starting to realize how good of a team we are, and we’ve just got to continue to keep that mindset and continue to win on our home floor.”

“We’ve got a good process of having a growth mindset,” Vogel added. “We’re working on where we went wrong, staying together, understanding the big picture and pushing forward.”

Russell Westbrook joined Davis in dispelling the notion that the Lakers are the type of team to lose that type of way, saying they “BS’d” the game entirely. Still, those types of games — especially when combined with how rocky the road has been for the Lakers thus far — can splinter a roster to the point of no return.

So how did the Lakers get back on track to win the past two games?

“Watching film,” Westbrook said when asked how they’ve rebounded. “We watched film and we looked at ourselves to see ‘how can we get better?’ To see where our effort was lacking and we fixed some of the things.

“We’re still a work in progress,” Westbrook continued. “We’re going to keep tugging away.”

They’ll have to keep “tugging away” without their best player in LeBron James, while also still waiting on the debuts of Talen Horton-Tucker, Kendrick Nunn, and Trevor Ariza. To make matters worse, Austin Reaves now joins that group of players with a strained hamstring that will keep him out at least two weeks.

But on the positive side of things, the Lakers have three more games at home — starting with this Timberwolves game — before they embark on a five-game east coast road trip that will include tough games against the Milwaukee Bucks and New York Knicks. However, it doesn’t really matter who the opponent is, any game is going to be tough for the Lakers if they only have 10 or 11 guys (or less) who can actually go out there and play.

Despite their injury-related limitations, though, it would really behoove the Lakers to win on Friday given the upcoming schedule. The Timberwolves have been very, very, VERY bad as of late. Sure, nothing is guaranteed with this rollercoaster of a Lakers team. But hopefully they really turned the page after their loss against the Trail Blazers, and can continue down a path of taking care of business until the reinforcements arrive.

Notes and Updates

  • Austin Reaves joins LeBron and the three other players who are yet to make their debuts as out on the injury report. Frank Vogel deemed Rajon Rondo to be “day-to-day” when he was held out of the Heat game, with Rondo coming into the Timberwolves game questionable.
  • The Timberwolves have not listed their injury report for the game, however, they had no players listed in their most recent game against the Warriors (those lucky jerks).
  • Around the league, our old friend Kyle Kuzma hit a go-ahead 3-pointer last night to help the Wizards move to 8-3 while beating the Cavaliers 97-94. It must have been a night of departed Lakers players making us fans yearn for their return, as Alex Caruso helped the Bulls get a win with 16 points and an insane 6 steals in just 23 minutes.

The Lakers will take on the Timberwolves at 7 p.m. PT, with the game being televised locally on Spectrum SportsNet. I’ll be watching the game live and in-person on a trip from my hometown of Chicago, but please don’t blame me if they lose.

For more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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