Despite a valiant push through the second half of the season, the Lakers could not elevate themselves above the play-in game and will take part in it for the second time in three years.
Like their last appearance, the Lakers will be the No. 7 seed in the play-in game. This time, they will play the Wolves at home. The Lakers have picked up wins over both sides in the second half of the regular season with their new-look rosters.
The Lakers have a history in the play-in game, having been in the inaugural version of it in 2021. That time, the Lakers were the No. 7 seed and knocked off the Warriors in the first game.
This season, a play-in game felt out of reach for much of the season as the Lakers languished below .500 for the first 50 games of the campaign. The team ultimately did just enough to stay close to the teams above them, so that when they reshaped the roster at the trade deadline, they could make a push.
Their push took them all the way through the play-in standings and had them positioned to even play their way out of the play-in game entirely, but a couple of falters down the stretch proved costly. Nonetheless, the Lakers gave themselves a chance to return to the postseason after missing it entirely last season.
The Lakers very recently played the Timberwolves in one of their many “most important games of the season” in the home stretch of the regular season. That contest took place in Minnesota and the Lakers came away with a 123-111 victory on their road trip.
If you’re looking for some positives, Minnesota looks to be in complete disarray heading into the contest.
Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert got into a scuffle during a timeout pic.twitter.com/y8X76TbUuJ— Backcourt Alerts (@BackcourtAlerts) April 9, 2023
Jaden McDaniels punched a wall on the way to the locker room— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) April 9, 2023
He is out the rest of the game with a hand injury pic.twitter.com/QVGMp1hful
And on the note of McDaniels, after the Wolves game, reports surfaced that he fractured his hand. McDaniels is one of the top defensive wings in the Western Conference and likely NBA as a whole.
The Wolves also released a statement on Gobert, who was sent home after his altercation on the bench.
Minnesota President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly on Rudy Gobert: “We made the decision to send Rudy Gobert home after the incident in the second quarter. His behavior on the bench was unacceptable and we will continue handling the situation internally.”— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 9, 2023
So, everything seems great in Minnesota!
Looking bigger picture, the Lakers lost the season series to the Timberwolves, including a frustrating home loss on March 3, though one that came without LeBron James. But with a healthy roster and with the Wolves seemingly crumbling despite winning on Sunday over the Pelicans, the vibes feel pretty good heading into the contest.
You can follow Jacob on Twitter at @JacobRude.