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Lakers vs Wolves: Play-In Preview

Photo/Gary Vasquez/USA Today Sports

It’s post season time again! Tonight the Los Angeles Lakers will be taking on the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first game of the play-in, with the winner getting the 7 seed in the Western Conference and proceeding to take on the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round. The Timberwolves are in the midst of team drama after a scuffle between Kyle Anderson and Rudy Gobert in Sunday’s regular season finale.

Gobert was sent home and subsequently suspended for tonight’s game. Jaden McDaniels, one of the league’s elite up-and-coming two-way players, broke his hand after punching a wall in frustration. They are looking to put this drama in the rear view mirror and focus on the task at hand, which is facing the Lakers tonight in this pivotal matchup.

For the Lakers, the stakes are massive. A win secures them a spot in the playoffs, which is something fans need after last season’s disaster. LA started the season 2-10 and spent much of the season below the play-in line, but since the trade deadline their fortunes have turned, giving Lebron James and Anthony Davis another shot at the post season together. The new group that has come together seems focused as one with a collective goal in mind: a championship. This team isn’t satisfied to make the play-in or the first round. Whether they can achieve that goal is yet to be seen, but after starting the season as badly as the Lakers did, for them to be on the brink of making the playoffs is unfathomable.

Injury Report

It’s a pretty clean injury report for LA, with D’Angelo Russell, Lebron James, and Anthony Davis all probable. Dennis Schröder is off the injury report entirely. For Minnesota, Naz Reid remains out while Rudy Gobert is suspended, Jaden McDaniels is out and Karl-Anthony Towns is questionable but expected to play.

King James Back on the Throne?

It seems that LeBron James is looking like LeBron James again upon his return from a foot injury, and at just the right time. He hit 8 3-pointers against the Jazz on Sunday, which was an extremely welcome sight given his struggle from beyond the arc this season. LeBron seems to be moving with freedom at both ends of the floor, and is showing no visible effects from the tendon injury that kept him sidelined for a month. He seems to be playing with joy again, and has expressed his belief in this team while he was sidelined, even mentioning it as a reason as to why he was so eager to come back quickly. Lebron seems to trust this team and love the pieces around him. History suggests that LeBron with the right pieces around him leads to postseason success.

Attack KAT

When the Timberwolves made the blockbuster trade for Rudy Gobert this summer, the idea was that Gobert could take on the league’s most dominant bigs (like Anthony Davis) on the defensive end, where Towns has often struggled. Now, with Gobert and Reid being out, Minnesota’s big man depth has been heavily depleted and lacks options outside of Towns. With this in mind, the Lakers must attack the paint, specifically Towns, forcing him to either get into foul trouble or allow points. LA can’t settle for jump shots. Between McDaniels and Gobert the Wolves’ defensive depth has been hit badly and the Lakers must take advantage. Tip off is at 10ET on TNT and a win will see your Lakers take on the Grizzlies in the first round. It will likely be a close one so strap in for some Hollywood drama in Los Angeles tonight.

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