The Los Angeles Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves hoping to get revenge for the 124-120 defeat they suffered in Minneapolis on October 29. Watch live on Sky Sports Arena in the early hours of Thursday morning.
Both teams have endured tough starts to the season, with off-court issues contributing to their lack of success on it.
Watch Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers
Live on Sky Sports Arena, Thursday 3:30am
For the Lakers (4-6), the arrival of LeBron James hasn’t masked the fact their roster is imbalanced and yet to gel. Opposition bigs have feasted on the Lakers’ lack of size – veteran Serge Ibaka enjoyed a career night against the porous Lakers’ interior defense on Sunday night as Toronto cruised to a 14-point win in Los Angeles.
The Lakers have addressed this issue by acquiring veteran Tyson Chandler after the 7ft 1in center had his contract bought out by the Phoenix Suns.
Chandler will undoubtedly help the Lakers but whether his presence is enough to produce the wins that will ease the pressure on coach Luke Walton is another matter. The presence of James on a roster struggling to find victories has always resulted in the coach feeling the heat – just ask former Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt.
The Timberwolves (4-7) have yet to resolve the Jimmy Butler trade saga, with the shooting guard seemingly picking and choosing which games he plays in while the team search for the right deal that will seal his departure.
Minnesota’s young stars Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, called out by Butler for their lack of toughness and application, have failed to consistency play to their potential with Butler still with the team.
Unsurprisingly, this situation hasn’t benefitted the Timberwolves on their current five-game west coast road trip. Big defeats to the Warriors, Trail Blazers and Clippers have seen them fall three games below .500. They are in desperate need of a win.
Key Battle: Karl-Anthony Towns vs Javale McGee & Tyson Chandler
Which version of Towns will turn up at Staples? The Wolves will hope they get a repeat of the young center’s 25-point, 16-rebound performance that drove them to that home win against the Lakers.
With the Lakers’ center rotation now augmented, McGee will be able to share defensive minutes with Chandler and offer 30-35 minutes of rim protection against Towns, who can fall back on outside shooting should the Lakers succeed in defending the interior.
It promises to be an interesting battle.
Last time out
34.3 – That’s the Lakers’ three-point shooting percentage through 10 games. To put that number into context, that’s less than the league average (35.3 per cent) and way less than league’s best three-point shooting team, the Golden State Warriors (42.3 per cent).
Simply put, in addition to their defensive woes, the Lakers don’t have enough outside shooting to compete with the NBA’s best teams. The result? More and more emphasis falls on James to make game-winning plays and clutch shots. He can’t be expected to pull those off every single time.
One to watch (Timberwolves) – Derrick Rose
While the Butler saga rumbles on, one benefit has been the re-emergence of Derrick Rose as a match-winning star after years of injury strife. Rose poured in a career-high 50 points as the Timberwolves beat the Utah Jazz 128-125, a performance that reduced the former MVP to tears in a post-game interview.
While Rose certainly won’t deliver performances like that every night, the Butler saga has provided him with the opportunity to show sparks of the talent that, prior to the ACL injury he suffered in the 2012 playoffs, made him one of the league’s best players.
One to watch (Lakers) – Brandon Ingram
Now in his third NBA season, Ingram seemed primed to make a leap, given he is now playing next to (and learning from) the world’s best player in James.
Then he received a four-game suspension for his part in the altercation that marred the Lakers’ early season loss to the Houston Rockets. Upon his return, the small forward was asked to guard opposing centers who, thanks to the disparity in size and strength, scored on him at will.
With Chandler now on board to back up McGee at center, Ingram, hailed by his team-mate James as a “special talent” during preseason, can get back to doing what he does best: contributing on both ends of the floor, defending multiple positions and helping the Lakers to get back above .500.
Wednesday night’s games
- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Cleveland Cavaliers, 12am
- Detroit Pistons @ Orlando Magic, 12am
- New York Knicks @ Atlanta Hawks, 12:30am
- San Antonio Spurs @ Miami Heat, 12:30am
- Philadelphia 76ers @ Indiana Pacers, 1am
- Denver Nuggets @ Memphis Grizzlies, 1am
- Chicago Bulls @ New Orleans Pelicans, 1am
- Dallas Mavericks @ Utah Jazz, 2am
- Toronto Raptors @ Sacramento Kings, 3am
- Minnesota Timberwolves @ Los Angeles Lakers, live on Sky Sports Arena, 3:30am
Watch the Milwaukee Bucks take on the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday at 8:30pm on a free live stream available on skysports.com and the Sky Sports app
Sky Sports is the new home of the NBA in the UK with live coverage throughout the week, including selected live games free to all Sky subscribers via Sky Sports Mix.