• The Lakers (23-33) head to Minnesota to take on the Timberwolves (35-25) on Thursday for the final NBA game before the All-Star break. The Lakers had been hot, winning 12-of-16 before a recent skid that has them losing two contests in a row, while playing terrible defense.

    As coach Luke Walton succinctly put it:

    “We’ve got to get our mojo back. We somehow lost it quickly. The last two games, offensively, we’ve been fine. We’re just not playing any defense. We’ve had breakdowns from the 3-point line, our 3-point defense, switching, simple pin-downs, simple parts of the game defensively, we’ve just stopped executing. It’s why we’ve made it such a big point of what we want to do this year. It doesn’t matter how good your offense is if you’re not going to play defense.”

    His description is quite apt; the Lakers have given up 134.5 points per game in their last two contests, leading their defensive rating to plummet from ninth on the season to 13th, with a rating of 105.4 points allowed per 100 possessions. In the last contest (a questionable description), the Lakers gave up a season-high 139 points to the New Orleans Pelicans, a team that is still acclimating to the loss of All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins.

    Their frustration was apparent on the court Wednesday with both new acquisition Isaiah Thomas and coach Walton being ejected. Thomas was goaded into his dismissal by another former Celtic point guard Rajon Rondo, who according to Thomas, was upset regarding a tribute the Celtics wanted to show in Thomas’ favor. Regardless of the cause, it appeared that Rondo had extracurricular activities on the mind and the referees chose to eject both players rather than the instigating party. That questionable decision, as well as a few other calls in the Pelicans’ favor, was the reason that Walton eventually earned his ejection. Perhaps he has also trying to find a different way to motivate his team into exerting more effort on the defensive end — it did not succeed.

    The Timberwolves have proven to be a tough matchup for the Lakers this season, in particular due to their blossoming big man Karl-Anthony Towns. For the season he is averaging he is averaging 20.4 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.5 blocks and 1.5 3-pointers per game while shooting 55.0 percent from the field and 85.5 percent from the line. As his stats portend, he is an extremely versatile and skilled player — the Lakers truly do not have a player that matches up with his size and athleticism.

    The second difficult matchup for Los Angeles is wing Jimmy Butler, a two-way player who can shut down three positions, make shots and create for his teammates. He is contributing 22.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals per game while shooting 47.9 percent from the field and 86.4 percent from the line.

    Key Stats

    • One element of their defense that the Lakers must improve is defending down low where they now allow 49.0 points in the paint per game (29th). In the last contest they allowed an eye-popping 62 points in the paint.
    • The Lakers turned the ball over 20 times in the last game, contributing to their 18.9 points per game off turnovers (29th). Los Angeles must take care of the ball as their defense is bad enough without allowing their opponents easy buckets off of careless errors.
    • Los Angeles turns the ball over 16.0 times per game (29th) compared to the Timberwolves who only turn the ball over 12.6 times per game (2nd).
    • The key to victory for the Lakers is defense. In their wins they have a defensive rating of 97.3 points per 100 possessions (3rd). In their losses they allow 111.0 points per 100 possessions (13th).
    • The Timberwolves are a much better team at converting from the free throw line as they knock down 80.0 percent from the line (4th) vs. Los Angeles who only makes 69.6 percent (30th).

    Projected Starting Rosters

    Lakers

    Brandon Ingram (PG)

    Josh Hart (SG)

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope (SF)

    Julius Randle (PF)

    Brook Lopez (C)

    Timberwolves

    Jeff Teague (PG)

    Jimmy Butler (SG)

    Andrew Wiggins (SF)

    Taj Gibson (PF)

    Karl-Anthony Towns (C)

    Injury Report

    Lakers

    Lonzo Ball (knee/MCL) – OUT

    Timberwolves

    No Injured Players

    Broadcast Information

    Time: 6:00 PM PST, 9:00 PM EST

    Television: TNT, SPECSN/SPECD, NBA TV CANADA, TNT-SAP,

    Radio: 830 WCCO, 710 AM ESPN, 1330 AM ESPN DEPORTES

Fantasy News

  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
    SG, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Shai Gilgeous-Alexander double-doubled for the Thunder in their 119-106 win over the Blazers on Saturday, tallying 20 points on 9-of-17 shooting with 10 rebounds and five assists.

    SGA has been a top-25 asset in 9-cat over the last two weeks and this could just be a preview of what could be an explosive post-ASB run by the "future" of the Thunder.

  • Zach LaVine
    PG, Chicago Bulls

    LaVine dominated the Cavs on Saturday with 42 points (19-of-31 from the field), six rebounds, five steals and two blocks in a 118-116 victory.

    LaVine increased his career-best streak of 20-point games to 10 with an exclamation point on Saturday. LaVine is on a roll posting first-round value this month while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Try to sell-high on him before he cools down.

  • Nerlens Noel
    C, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Nerlens Noel made his 19 minutes off the bench count on Saturday, chipping in 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting with five rebounds, two dimes, two steals and two blocks.

    Noel is a per-minute beast and we can hardly wait for him to be unleashed down the road. For that to happen, the Thunder will need to find a taker for Steven Adams (right knee contusion), who put up a lackluster showing with five points, nine rebounds and three assists in 24 minutes as a starter.

  • Furkan Korkmaz
    SG, Philadelphia Sixers

    Furkan Korkmaz finished Saturday's win over the Knicks with 17 points, on 6-of-12 shooting from the field, with no other countable statistics logged.

    Coming off the bench, Korkmaz scored 17 points, with three from behind the arc. However, the nice points are completely empty as he did not contribute at all in any other statistical category and over the past five games has averaged less than two rebounds and one assist per game. He should not be owned in any but the deepest of leagues.

  • Darius Bazley
    PF, Oklahoma City Thunder

    Darius Bazley started for Danilo Gallinari (rest) on Saturday and worked the glass for a career-best 13 rebounds, adding nine points on 2-of-9 shooting with one assist and one block in 31 minutes.

    Bazley is a promising piece for the Thunder's future rebuild, but for this season he's a marginal hold in very deep leagues due to his lack of consistency.

  • Bojan Bogdanovic
    SF, Utah Jazz

    Bojan Bogdanovic made a fool of the Kings' perimeter defense on Saturday, connecting on six 3-pointers en route to a 30-point night on 10-of-15 shooting, adding two rebounds, one assist and one steal to the box.

    Bogdanovic was just money for his owners tonight as he provided hyper-efficient high-volume scoring along with those six long bombs. He's a steady and reliable source of such gems, something that keeps him steady as a top-60 play over the last two weeks.

  • Luke Kornet
    PF-C, Chicago Bulls

    Luke Kornet scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting and added three rebounds, four assists, one block and three 3-pointers in 22 minutes on Saturday.

    Kornet's best fantasy contributions are blocks and threes and he provided them on Saturday. He has short-term value in standard-leagues while Wendell Carter Jr. (right high ankle sprain) and Daniel Gafford (thumb) are out. Thaddeus Young (seven points in 15 minutes) and Cristiano Felicio (two points in 14 minutes) both flopped on Saturday, so Kornet may have the upper hand over those two in the rotation while the Bulls are short-handed.

  • Rudy Gobert
    C, Utah Jazz

    Rudy Gobert feasted on the Kings in Saturday's 123-101 win, powering the Jazz to victory with 28 points on 9-of-11 field goals and a suprising 10-of-11 free throws.

    Gobert was also a beast on the glass, collecting 15 boards and a Kings' bane on defense with two steals and three blocks to his name. This was a favorable matchup for the Stifle Tower, but his 10-of-11 run at the line was a more-than-pleasant surprise considering he's shooting .606 from the stripe this season.

  • Julius Randle
    PF, New York Knicks

    Julius Randle double-doubled in Saturday's loss to the Sixers, finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and five turnovers.

    A bit of a sloppy game for Randle as he coughed up the ball five times against the Sixers. The turnovers negated the assists, as he also finished with five of those. He did not contribute any defensive statistics, so in addition to his poor efficiency from the field (5-of-13) he had a rather empty game even with the novelty of a double-double.

  • Kevin Love
    PF, Cleveland Cavaliers

    Kevin Love shot 10-of-20 from the field and 4-of-8 from beyond the arc on his way to scoring 29 points with five rebounds, six assists, one steal and one block in 34 minutes.

    Love is inside the top-70 in 9-cat on the season and will keep posting that value as long as he's on the court. Fantasy owners shouldn't worry about a potential trade hurting Love's value.