The Los Angeles Lakers will be facing off against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament in Los Angeles on Tuesday Night. The game is scheduled for 10pm ET and will be broadcasted nationally on TNT. Coming into the game, the Lakers will be favorites after finishing the season with a Western Conference second-half best 18-9 record to propel them into the 7th seed at 43-39. Many believe the Lakers will come out on top, as Los Angeles has looked like a completely different team ever since the trade deadline.
GM Rob Pelinka shipped away highly polarizing guard Russell Westbrook at the deadline, and brought in a plethora of role players to supplement LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Guards D’Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley arrived in LA alongside forwards Jarred Vanderbilt and Rui Hachimura, making an immediate impact. Center Mo Bamba was another acquisition who looks to make a difference in the NBA Playoffs, as well as recent signings Shaquille Harrison and Tristan Thompson.
While all the new additions surely helped boost the Lakers into the postseason, the emergence of guard Austin Reaves has been a highlight for Lakers faithful across the NBA world as well. Overall, the Lakers completely turned around a season that started 2-10, and now have a golden opportunity against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Although they are the favorites, the Lakers still have to come ready to perform in Los Angeles on Tuesday night. If the Lakers are going to win, there will be three reasons why. So, why will the Lakers beat the Timberwolves?
Here are three reasons the Lakers will beat the Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament.
*Stats via ESPN
Rudy Gobert is going to be suspended for Tuesday’s play-in game between the Lakers and Timberwolves. This is a huge loss for Minnesota, as they now will be down their starting center for the most important game of the season. This is a huge reason the Lakers will win and move on to play the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
Anthony Davis has already proven he is still an elite scorer and one of the best players in the NBA over the last few weeks. His dominance has been key in the Lakers resurgence, and missing the three-time defensive player of the year in Gobert is a massive liability for the Timberwolves.
Karl-Anthony Towns is already a weak defender, and he will now have to pick up a lot of the slack on Davis. This will not only give Davis a better matchup on the offensive end, but the Timberwolves best offensive threat will now be at a greater risk of getting in foul trouble. The Timberwolves were already at a disadvantage heading into this one, and losing Gobert takes a big swing at their chances of beating the Lakers.
Vanderbilt has brought an intensity to the Lakers defensive side of the ball ever since he joined the team at the trade deadline. Since becoming a Laker, Los Angeles has the best defensive rating in the Western Conference and are holding their opponents to the second-lowest effective shooting percentage. His size, length, and athleticism allow Vanderbilt to make a difference against all five positions on the court.
Against the Timberwolves, Vanderbilt will be a huge reason the Lakers pull away with a win. His ability to guard both on the perimeter and down low allows for James and Davis to expel less energy on that side of the floor, and keeps the Lakers afloat when both stars are on the bench. Additionally, Vanderbilt matches up very well with a Timberwolves roster without Gobert.
The Timberwolves will look to play a fast and high-scoring affair without Gobert, capitalizing on their own size and athleticism against an older, smaller Lakers lineup. This is where Vanderbilt will play a key role, as he will take charge in combatting the bigger Minnesota lineup with elite length of his own.
LeBron James is a four-time NBA Champion, along with one as a Los Angeles Laker with fellow star Anthony Davis. They also just signed free agent center Thompson, who won a championship in Cleveland in 2o16 with James and the Cavaliers. Simply put, the Lakers have a lot more successful playoff experience than a Timberwolves roster with no combined championships.
The game will take place in Los Angeles, so Crypto Arena is sure to be bumping in full support of the Lakers. This will be nothing new to a team led by James, who is sure to have the entire roster calm and collected before tip-off. Given the Lakers performance in the second-half of the season, they already look locked-in; with the playoffs arriving, James will have the Lakers upping the intensity a notch.
Minnesota will certainly have a higher enthusiasm as well, as playoff basketball is a faster, more physical game. However, with James, any team would be ready for an elimination game. The championship repertoire of the Lakers history and the current roster will lead them to a win against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the 2023 NBA Play-In Tournament.
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