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Lakers vs. Timberwolves Preview: Thank God there are only 14 games left

Frank Vogel says the team isn’t letting go of the rope yet, while Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker have no idea how to solve their issues. Where do the Lakers really stand here?

Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Berding/Getty Images

I no longer have the words to describe the Lakers at this point.

Every time you think they can’t get worse, they somehow find a way to crash through the floor and find a new rock bottom. After giving up the most points in the first quarter (48) in franchise history to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday, the Lakers somehow topped that and responded 24 hours later by scoring their fewest points in a quarter in franchise history (12) in their loss to the Toronto Raptors at home on Monday.

The Lakers have been outscored by a combined 81-34 (47-point-gap) in their last two first quarters. On Monday, they brutally shot 0-for-13 from the 3-point area in the first quarter, which according to ESPN’S Dave McMenamin, was the most attempts from three without a made shot in the first period by any team in NBA history.

What the purple and gold displayed in the past two games is crystal clear: That they don’t even want to bother to compete anymore. Sure, Frank Vogel said postgame after Monday’s loss that the team isn’t letting go of the rope yet, but as cliche as this sounds, actions always speak louder than words.

You can see where the Lakers stand with how they’ve played lately. In every missed layup, when they don’t bother running back on defense, in their poor shot selection on offense, when they fail to grab a rebound even if the ball is literally just right there, in their missed rotations and box-outs in the 60th game of the season, and most importantly in their sloppy-looking body language and effort throughout almost every game.

And the worst part about it all is that the team has no clue how to fix their issues. I’m not the only one without many words left to describe this team’s shortcomings. Just ask Russell Westbrook and Talen Horton-Tucker, who both looked lifeless when asked about what they can change to avoid such slow starts after Monday’s loss.

So what do the Lakers really want to do in their next 14 games? Are they going to abide by Vogel’s words and not let go of the rope, and actually show some desire to make the play-in tournament? Or are they just going to sit around and continue the same losing habits and mentality they’ve shown all season? I know what I’d bet on.

This is a team that at 29-39 is closer to the 13th seed than the eighth seed in the Western Conference. The Lakers have to decide what they want out of their remaining games because if they don’t, they’re going to continue looking like the silly and pathetic team that embarrasses everyone who cheers for them and disrespects the game of basketball on a nightly basis.

If they do indeed make the most out of the next 14 games by going all out, then good for them — it’s about damn time. But if they continue to tell the world that they don’t know what to do and play the way they have been, then thank goodness that at least there are only 14 more games left in this forgettable season.

Their next chance to show any respect for their fans and themselves will come on Wednesday when they face the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have won 9 out of their last 11 games and are the hottest team in the league since the All-Star break. I’m not counting on that trend coming to an end in this matchup, and no one else who has watched this team should either.

Notes and updates:

  • The Lakers — who are getting +8.5 points as underdogs against the Wolves over at DraftKings — are stumbling upon a Minnesota team coming off a career performance from Karl Anthony Towns, who had 60 points on Monday. L.A. has only defeated Minnesota once out of three times this season, with tomorrow serving as their final matchup.
  • The Timberwolves rank in the league’s top-five offense and defense since the All-Star break.
  • As expected, Anthony Davis (right mid-foot sprain) and Kendrick Nunn (right knee bone bruise) are out on Wednesday.
  • LeBron James (left knee soreness/effusion) is questionable. James, who played 40 minutes against the Raptors on Monday, suited up for both back-to-back games despite being a gametime decision against the Raptors.
  • Talen Horton-Tucker (left ankle sprain) is probable. Horton-Tucker mentioned last week that he’s been playing through this grade 2 sprain in his ankle for quite some time now.
  • Mason Jones (two-way contract) will be with the South Bay Lakers.
  • For news around the league, Brooklyn Nets’ Kyrie Irving is up to 41 points at halftime against the Orlando Magic as this story publishes. This came after Anthony-Towns’ 60 point performance in his last game, and Steph Curry’s 47 point performance on Monday. Just a few days prior to that, LeBron James put up 50 points against the Washington Wizards while Jayson Tatum had 54 points against the Brooklyn Nets days prior. Are these some of the wildest scoring binges from multiple players we’ve ever seen at the same time in NBA history?

The Lakers and Timberwolves will tip off at 5 p.m. PT. The game will be locally broadcast on Spectrum SportsNet.

Check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation. And for more Lakers talk, subscribe to the Silver Screen and Roll podcast feed on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or Google Podcasts. You can follow Nicole on Twitter at @nicoleganglani.