By: Dan Slaubaugh
Tonight, the Minnesota Timberwolves will square off against LeBron James, Lavar I mean Lonzo Ball, and the Los Angeles Lakers. This is a game that projects to be high scoring as both teams are top half in offensive rating and in the bottom 10 of the league for defensive rating.
After beginning the season 0-3, the Lakers have won two of their past three with wins over the Phoenix Suns and Denver Nuggets. Both of those wins came without 21-year-old forward Brandon Ingram, who was suspended four games after throwing a haymaker at Chris Paul in their second game of the season. Ingram is set to return tonight against Minnesota.
The Wolves come into tonight’s game with a disappointing 2-4 record and seem to be distracted by the Jimmy Butler saga. They will try to bounce back after getting steamrolled at home by the Milwaukee Bucks Friday.
What: Wolves - Lakers
When: 7:10 PM CT
Where: Target Center. Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Where to watch: Fox Sports North
Where to listen: 830 WCCO
What to watch for:
King James and the kids: Led by the one and only LeBron James, the Lakers have a plethora of young talent around their newly-acquired Hollywood superstar. Having shown a lot of promise so far, Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma should only continue to get better. Surrounding LeBron and the kids are a cast of colorful characters in Rajon Rando, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Michael Beasley. This team is certainly entertaining and probably the first Lakers squad I haven’t actively rooted against in my life.
Transition scoring: LeBron teams tend to get in the open floor and attack in transition. This year is no exception. The Lakers rank first in the NBA in transition averaging 37.7 points in transition per game and percentage of total points from transition buckets at 21.9 percent. With multiple ball-handlers capable of pushing the pace, and explosive athletes all over the floor, getting out in transition will be their bread and butter all season.
The second-best transition offense in the league? The Minnesota Timberwolves, who have been pushing the ball more this year as a result of multiple capable ball-handlers and distributors that can create easy looks for the team.
"If you get stops, you can push. I think having multiple point guards allows you to play that way. We do want to play a lot faster,” Thibodeau said after a win over the Pacers one week ago today. “Now, I don't know what it really means because our pace was fast in the preseason and we got blown out. If the pace is fast and we win, I'm good. I think we have the capability of doing that.”
Thibodeau credited Karl-Anthony Towns for the success the Wolves have had in transition.
“I think KAT is getting down the floor a lot better and mixing it up being the first big down. Those are the opportunities, because of what he sees in terms of double-teams in the half court, sprinting the floor to the front of the rim, the defense can’t get set. It sets up a lot of things because often times the guards are back protecting, and that leads our guards to get KAT the ball in deep post ups. ... For us, it's good. The faster the better.”
It’s going to be a track meet at Target Center tonight.
Attendance: With King James in the West now, LeBron fans in Minnesota get to see him twice a year instead of once. Tonight will be their first chance and it will probably result in it being a pro-Lakers crowd, as the Wolves rank dead last in attendance this season with an average of 15,227 fans through the team’s first three home games. I’ll be listening to hear the noise levels between each fanbase after each bucket.
Minnesota: PG Jeff Teague, SG Andrew Wiggins, SF Jimmy Butler, PF Taj Gibson, C Karl-Anthony Towns
Los Angeles: PG Lonzo Ball, SG Josh Hart, SF Brandon Ingram, PF LeBron James, C JaVale McGee
Lakers win the transition battle in a high-scoring affair.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game.