Monday, October 2 2023

Lately, it seems like the stars have been aligning for the Los Angeles Lakers, at least to a certain extent.

After the Russell Westbrook trade that likely turned their season and prospects around, they have had one of the best records in the NBA. They have taken advantage of a favorable schedule during that time, although they also had to deal with injuries to LeBron James and Dennis Schroder that canceled out any advantage that schedule gave them.

Now, Los Angeles will host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the play-in tournament on Tuesday, and even better, the way the Western Conference brackets have turned out, it will be able to avoid the Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets until the Western Conference Finals, if it gets there.

Furthermore, the Timberwolves are shorthanded. They will be without forward Jaden McDaniels, one of the league’s top defenders, who injured his hand on Sunday, as well as Rudy Gobert, who was suspended after trying to throw a punch at teammate Kyle Anderson on Sunday.

All of this has made the Lakers big favorites in Tuesday’s game. However, they cannot go into that contest thinking that it will be an automatic win or that they will have it easy.

Minnesota, oddly enough, actually has a higher winning percentage this season without Gobert than with him. In addition, it still has All-Star Anthony Edwards, one of the most dangerous guards in the game, as well as Karl-Anthony Towns, a very capable and potent big man at both ends of the floor.

Also, veteran point guard Mike Conley, who arrived in the three-team deal that Westbrook was involved in, has played very well and efficiently with the Timberwolves, and he has tons of playoff experience.

The Lakers need to jump on them early and use their newfound defensive prowess and dangerous fast break to establish a sizable lead. Even more, they need to maintain, if not extend, any type of sizable lead they get, rather than become protective, start walking the ball upcourt and milk the shot clock.

A big key moving forward will be managing LeBron James’ minutes, and by winning early and resoundingly versus Minnesota, the Lakers can do just that as well.

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Story originally appeared on LeBron Wire

Source: Yahoo Sports


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