• The Lakers lost to the Timberwolves 121-104 on Monday evening in a game that no one expected them to win. They were down three starters and facing a superior team, but they fought hard and even had an 84-83 lead before Minnesota scored 12 consecutive points to effectively end the game.

    Los Angeles did an admirable job hanging close during the bulk of this contest due in large part to the efforts of Kyle Kuzma who paced the Lakers throughout the evening. He scored 10 of their first 14 points and a total of 16 first half points. Kuzma finished the game with 31 points, four assists, three rebounds, two steals and one block. He shot 8-of-18 from the field, 6-of-11 from 3-point range and 9-of-13 attempts. The career-high number of trips to the line was demonstrative of his aggression on the night, as were his three defensive stats — a category he does not always contribute in.

    Julius Randle was the Lakers’ most efficient player on the night but unforgivably played only 19 minutes. He compiled an impressive stat line with 16 points, seven rebounds and two assists while shooting 7-of-10 from the field and 2-of-2 from the line.

    For some reason coach Luke Walton continues to start Andrew Bogut and play him significant minutes. Tonight he played 15 minutes without scoring a point or shooting a shot with three rebounds, one assist and a minus-14 rating. Perhaps the Lakers would be better off if some of those unproductive minutes were allocated to Randle, Larry Nance, or Thomas Bryant.

    Jordan Clarkson started for Lonzo Ball, who was missing his first game since joining the NBA. Clarkson amassed a robust stat line of 17 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals but shot 8-of-24 points and 0-of-3 from 3-point range.

    Another member of the Lakers to struggle was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope who had another off night, continuing his recent stretch of lackluster play. He shot 3-of-11 for eight points, five rebounds, one assist, one steal and a team leading three turnovers. Caldwell-Pope simply isn’t playing with confidence at the moment as he is missing shots badly, particularly in key situations.

    One additional bright spot worth highlighting for the Lakers is rookie Josh Hart who is playing solid defense and showing tremendous composure on both ends of the court. His stat line of 12 points, six rebounds, two assists and one steal did not belie his positive contribution to the team on a night when they were sorely in need of players to step up.

    The Timberwolves were not in dire straights as they had a multitude of players who stepped up and played well on the evening. They were led by Jimmy Butler who started the game by hitting his first seven shots and finished with 23 points, eight assists, five rebounds, two steals and a whopping plus-17 rating.

    He was joined by starting center Karl-Anthony Towns who had another great performance against the Lakers with 21 points, 10 rebounds, two assists, one steal and all four of the Timberwolves’ blocks. He shot 7-of-12 from the floor, 2-of-6 from 3-point range and 5-of-6 from the free throw line while securing a game leading plus-18 rating.

    Every starter for Minnesota had a good game but one eye catching line was that by former USC player Taj Gibson who shot 11-of-13 for 23 points, nine rebounds and one steal.

    Key Stats and Observations

    • Los Angeles allowed Minnesota to shoot 58.3 percent from the floor while shooting only 43.5 percent themselves.
    • The Lakers woes from the free throw line continued as they hit only 14-of-20 of their freebies compared to 12-of-14 for 85.7 percent for the Timberwolves.
    • Minnesota outrebounded Los Angeles 50-45.
    • The Timerwolves, led by Jeff Teague’s 10 dimes, had 30 assists vs. 21 assists for the Lakers.
    • One reason the Lakers were able to stay close in this one was that they only committed 12 turnovers compared to 15 for the Timberwolves. However, they had several costly miscues during the game deciding stretch after they took an 84-83 lead.
    • The Wolves shot 16-of-23 in the fourth quarter on their way to a 38-point explosion. The Lakers struggled in the final period converting only 9-of-24 shots and scoring 24 points.
    • Kuzma was the first rookie to score 30-plus points since LeBron James in 2003. He continues to accrue accolades during his rookie year without the team running any plays for him. One could say he is in “Kuz” control at the moment and the Lakers are happy to be along for the ride.

    Up Next

    The Lakers host Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies (10-23) on Wednesday.

    Gasol is leading the way for Memphis with 18.9 points 8.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 0.7 steals and 1.4 blocks.

    He is joined by a resurgent Tyreke Evans who is averaging 18.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.0 steals on this season. Evans has been even more impressive in the last week with 21.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game.

    The Lakers do not expect to have Ball back for this contest but Brandon Ingram is a real possibility since he made it through shootaround before being a late scratch. His return would be a welcome return as the Lakers could really use his play-making ability as well as the fact that he would relegate another player to the bench to bolster that unit as well.

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Brian A. Gutierrez

Kuzma making a run for rookie of the year? LAKERS need to keep the team healthy

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