Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Los Angeles Lakers Pick & Prediction DECEMBER 21st 2023

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The Los Angeles Lakers will try to snap a three-game losing streak when they oppose the Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night in Minneapolis, with both teams completing a back-to-back set.

The Lakers will have to do it without superstar LeBron James, who has been ruled out of Thursday’s game due to tendinitis in his left ankle. It will be the third missed game this season for James.

Los Angeles fell 124-108 on the road against the Chicago Bulls on Wednesday night. James played 37 minutes and finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, and Anthony Davis registered 19 points and 14 boards in a losing cause.

“It’s not like our schedule gets any easier,” James said. “As far as travel, as far as opponents, things of that nature, obviously we play the best team in the Western Conference right now in Minnesota. … It’s not like it eases up for us, but we’ve just got to be better.”

Minnesota sits atop the conference standings with a 20-6 record, including an 11-1 mark on its home court. The Timberwolves have won nine of their past 11 games, but they are coming off a 127-113 loss at Philadelphia on Wednesday night.

Anthony Edwards scored a team-high 27 points vs. the 76ers, Karl-Anthony Towns finished with 23 points and 13 rebounds, and Jaden McDaniel notched 21 points. Minnesota was hurt by 19 turnovers that Philadelphia turned into 28 points.

Although the Timberwolves have surged to the top of the standings, veteran center Rudy Gobert acknowledged that much work remains before they can earn the same respect as the Lakers and other recent conference champions.

One point of emphasis has been the Timberwolves’ slow starts in the first quarter.

“It wouldn’t be fun if there wasn’t things to get better at,” Gobert said. “That’s definitely something we need to get better at because it can cost us games. …

“It takes for us to get punched in the face to wake up and then to do the things that we need to do. Every time we do the things that we’re supposed to do, especially defensively, we put ourselves in the position to win the game.”

Timberwolves guard Mike Conley added of the team’s early-game woes, “It’s something we need to work on, for sure. It’s something we’re going to address and figure out how we can start games better. We can’t be two different teams.”

Gobert has done his part to aid the team effort. He is averaging a double-double this season with 12.4 points and 12.0 rebounds, and he is shooting 61.9 percent from the field.

The 31-year-old from France also is forcing opponents to change their game offense, as he is averaging 2.3 blocks and 0.8 steals per game.

The Timberwolves must try to find a way to slow down the Lakers’ productive bench, including third-year player Austin Reaves. The 25-year-old scored 21 points in 28 minutes at Chicago while shooting 9 of 14 overall from the floor and 2 of 5 from 3-point range.

The Thursday contest will be the teams’ first meeting of the season. The clubs faced off three times last season, with Minnesota winning twice.

The Lakers are 5-10 on the road this season.

–Field Level Media

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