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Lakers vs. Timberwolves Preview: One last hurdle

On Tuesday, the Lakers will look to secure the 7th seed in the Western Conference playoffs, facing the Grizzlies in the first round. To do so, they will have to beat the Timberwolves who recently became very shorthanded.

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Los Angeles Lakers v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

The 2022-23 regular season is over.

The campaign that saw the Los Angeles Lakers start 2-10 now sees them 43-39, needing to get through the third annual play-in tournament in the Western Conference to officially make the playoffs. The Lakers missed the playoffs and the play-in tournament last season.

The 7th-seeded Lakers will match up against the 8th-seeded Minnesota Timberwolves at Arena in what will hopefully be the Lakers’ sole play-in game this year. If they lose, they’ll still have an opportunity to get into the playoffs as the official 8 seed with a win on Thursday against the loser of Pelicans vs. Thunder.

Here’s our preview of Tuesday night’s matchup, which is headlined by things seemingly going the Lakers’ way before the referee even throws up the ball.

Lakers luck?

If you’re reading this, you likely know what I’m alluding to above.

Rudy Gobert, the target of the Timberwolves’ most aggressive acquisition ever, will be out on Tuesday. Not due to injury, no, but to a suspension that came from the following moment in the team’s final game of the season on Sunday.

Somehow, that’s not the only starter they will be without stemming from an embarrassing moment on Sunday, as Jaden McDaniels will be out for this game and the rest of the postseason due to breaking his own hand in the moment of frustration that can be seen below.

Say what you want about the Timberwolves’ acquisition of Gobert, but you can’t deny the insane versatility, height, and length of a frontcourt featuring him, McDaniels, and Karl Anthony-Towns (who is questionable on the injury report but assumedly likely to play given the weight of this game).

Without the former two, that advantage flips aggressively into the Lakers’ favor, especially when you consider the fact that backup center Naz Reid will also be out in this game. Anthony Davis should be able to feast inside, and if he isn’t able to for whatever reason, LeBron James, Austin Reaves, D’Angelo Russell, and the Lakers’ other ball handlers should be able to leverage screens from Davis to get their own favorable action around the restricted area.


If the Timberwolves win, I would see it as nothing but an utter embarrassment for the Lakers. That may be a little bit of hyperbole, but when you consider the fact that these teams were probably evenly matched up without any absences after considering all the above, it’s hard not to feel that way.

The only real path to victory for the Timberwolves is if the Lakers aren’t mentally or physically prepared to start. The Lakers didn’t really end the season that well from an effort standpoint, although that was certainly encouraged by their final two opponents in the Suns and Jazz who were resting a lot of guys against the Lakers. Those lackadaisical games could result in a slow start for the Lakers that they have trouble overcoming.

They also have a big, physical, explosive wing in Anthony Edwards who represents a player archetype that can easily present problems for the Lakers’ guards. He’s had a good third season in the league — notching career-highs in points per game (24.6), field-goal percentage (45.9%), 3-point percentage (36.9%), and free-throw attempts per game (5.3).

If the Lakers come out strong and develop a strong defensive game plan for Edwards, I could see this being a blowout. I’ll predict a 10-12 point Lakers win to be conservative (I really hope this doesn’t blow up in my face).

Notes and Updates

  • The Lakers’ injury report is nearly nothing compared to the Timberwolves’ novel of a report. LeBron James (right foot soreness), Anthony Davis (right foot stress injury), and D’Angelo Russell (left foot soreness) are all listed as probable.
  • No one else is listed, with Dennis Schröder being a notable omission. He missed the last two games with neck spasms and Achilles soreness, respectively. He will be good to go on Tuesday.
  • The Timberwolves will be without Rudy Gobert (team suspension), Naz Reid (left scaphoid fracture), Jaden McDaniels (fought a wall and the wall won), Luka Garza (G-League play), and our old friend Matt Ryan (G-League play). Jaylen Nowell (left knee tendinopathy) will be questionable.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns will also be questionable (right calf strain), however, he’s been listed as questionable in the Timberwolves’ last few games despite missing none of them. He should be fine.

The Lakers and Timberwolves will tip off at 7 p.m. PT. The game will be exclusively televised on TNT. Have a good offseason, Billy Mac and Stu Lantz!

You can follow Donny on Twitter at @donny_mchenry.

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