Minnesota at L.A. Lakers
Time: 9:30 PM CT, TNT
Odds c/o 5dimes
The Los Angeles Lakers are 25-23 and 15-10 at home where it hosts the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night in the second half of a TNT doubleheader. The Lakers have lost six of its last 10 games, but the spread is set EVEN between the Wolves and Lakers for this affair. It will air at 9:30 PM (CT) on TNT and has an over/under set at 229.5 points according to NBA oddsmakers at bookmaker 5dimes.
The Lakers have lost four of its last six, and continue to be without its star player LeBron James. James is due to return soon but still has not participated in drills. Rajon Rondo, too, is a game-time decision. With James sure to miss the game, Rondo could loom huge as a performer who always seems to step up when teams need him to. The Lakers defense, though, is most in need of help, and Rondo’s gambling defensive tactics can only half-insure that improvement.
The Lakers have given up 128, 134, and 111 points over its past three games, two of which were losses. Albeit, those three games were played against high-scoring Western Conference juggernauts Oklahoma City, Houston, and Golden State—but the Lakers cannot afford to give up 130-plus points and expect to win easily, particularly not without James available.
Kyle Kuzma has assumed the role of No. 1 scorer and team leader without LBJ available, but the Lakers clearly have lost a lot of its identity without the game’s best player. Kuzma is averaging 19.3 points and six rebounds on the season, and over his last 10 games, he has been sensational. Kuzma has tallied 23.8 points, 2.4 assists, and 6.6 rebounds while shooting 45.2 percent from the floor. The problem is that he is simply not getting a ton of help, and the defense has been abysmal.
The Lakers are still confused as to why Brandon Ingram is not progressing quicker, and Josh Hart’s breakout season never really came. Ingram shot just 7 of 16 from the floor, and Hart attempted only two field goals, in the loss to the Warriors. Meanwhile, Klay Thompson shot 17 of 20 against the supposed defense of Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, who finished with a -23 mark for his 22 minutes of play. Without a defensive quarterback of sorts in James, no one is taking the initiative to call out defensive switches and it shows. The Warriors connected on 43.2 percent of its 37 three-point attempts in a game that was never really close.
The Minnesota Timberwolves have won two-straight games, and all it took was back-to-back matchups against the lowly Phoenix Suns to make it happen. The ship is still hardly sailing straight, as the Wolves are a game below .500 and though it has won six of its last nine, the schedule has been largely to blame for that “success.”
“Hollow statistics” could sum up the theme of Minnesota’s season. Despite Karl-Anthony Towns putting up 22.5 points and 12.3 rebounds, the team had to shed itself of Jimmy Butler, its No. 2 scorer, and that void has largely not been filled by the additions it made in that trade. Confusing still is the role of Dario Saric, whose career once shined rather brightly but is now averaging under 10 points per game while playing 23 minutes a night. Derrick Rose, oddly, has been the brightest spot for Minnesota in a career-saving year that has seen the league’s once-youngest MVP average nearly 19 points per game.
The thing is, Andrew Wiggins has fallen off on both ends of the court and without Butler, there seems to be no one there to let him know. The No. 1 overall pick is averaging just 17.5 points per game while playing largely uninspired defense. Additionally, Jeff Teague is a solid point guard but nowhere near the playmaker, the Wolves had when it started Ricky Rubio. Overall, the team made noticeable downgrades in talent, hoping Wiggins and Towns would be enough, but sadly, they have not been. For a team once billed as one of the best young teams in the league, one must wonder if it is not the best young team…stuck in limbo.