Although the Western Conference is very tight, the Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves are on the outside looking in. However, a win by the Lakers could vault them into the number eight seed in the conference. The Lakers come into play 25-23 on the season and 15-10 at home. Minnesota is 23-24 and struggling on the road, winners of just seven of 23. The Timberwolves won the first game between the teams this season by 22 points on January 6.
Los Angeles has struggled in the absence of LeBron James. going 5-8 since he went down to injury. They rank 11th in scoring and 14th in scoring differential. One of the worst in the league in ball control, the Lakers are 27th in turnovers but make it up with strong rebound, ranked fifth in the league. The Tiberwolves are middle of the pack in scoring, point differential and rebounding, but are third in fewest turnovers, making the most of their possessions.
Without James in the lineup, the Lakers are having a difficult time making up his 27 points per night. Kyle Kuzma is currently their leading scorer, at 19.3 points per game. Brandon Ingram is capable of picking up the slack, averaging 16.4 per contest. JaValle McGee and Kantavious Caldwell-Pope are solid role players. Josh Hart will see more minutes in the absence of Lonzo Ball, out with an ankle injury.
Minnesota has a much deeper unit at the moment, lead by Karl-Anthony Towns, who averages 22.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per night. He's difficult to defend because he can work inside or out, hitting 37 percent from three-point range. Derrick Rose has had a resurgence this year, averaging 19 points on 42 percent from beyond the arc. Jeff Teague leads the unit as the floor general, dishing out eight assists per game. Dario Saric and Taj Gibson are good complimentary pieces, combining for 21 points and 13 rebounds a game.
The Lakers will likely be narrow home favorites, however they are struggle to put together consistent efforts on a nightly basis. Minnesota is the more talented team without James on the floor, however they are terrible on the road. This is a tough one to predict, but should be an entertaining game decided late. Go with a coin flip on this one as the Western Conference continues to remain tight.