• The Lakers led for the bulk of the game on Thursday, before getting thoroughly outplayed in the fourth quarter, falling to the Timberwolves 119-111.

    Los Angeles held an 88-76 lead with two minutes in the third quarter before letting Minnesota finish the period on an 8-3 run to cut the lead to 91-84 heading into the fourth. The Timberwolves would build on the momentum established in that run to go on a 14-6 burst to take an early lead. The fourth really belonged to them as they outscored the Lakers 35-20 in the final frame to send the Lakers home reeling.

    Jimmy Butler was acquired from the Bulls this offseason to take Minnesota to the next level; he accomplished just that on Thursday, entering the game in the fourth with a six-point deficit and catapulting the Timberwolves to victory, his team outscoring the Lakers by 14 points in the fourth. He entered the final frame with 15 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal, one block and a minus-2 rating. He ended up finishing the game with 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, one steal, three blocks and a plus-12 rating. He struggled from the field making only 7-of-20 from the field, 0-of-7 from 3-point line but hitting 10-of-11 from the free throw stripe. He appeared to will his team to victory down the stretch.

    The Lakers did a fairly good job of corralling the Timberwolves other All-Star, Karl-Anthony Towns. KAT, as he is referred to, finished with 10 points, 19 rebounds, four assists and two blocks but made only 2-of-9 from the field, well below his season shooting percentage and scoring average.

    In his stead, Taj Gibson scored a career-high 28 points and collected seven rebounds, one steal, two blocks and a game-high plus-13 rating while hitting 11-of-16 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line.

    The Wolves other major offseason acquisition, Jeff Teague, chipped in 20 points, six assists, three rebounds and one block on efficient shooting, hitting 6-of-9 from the field, 2-of-3 from 3-point range and 6-of-7 from the free throw stripe.

    The Lakers had several solid efforts that helped keep them ahead for three quarters, along with a few lackluster efforts that served to undermine their overall performance and contributed to the loss.

    Kentavious Caldwell-Pope tallied 17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, two steals and a plus-2 rating (only Laker starter with a positive rating) while knocking down 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from 3-point range.

    There was an Ivica Zubac sighting on Thursday as the young center contributed 19 points, 11 rebounds and a plus-5 rating while making a perfect 8-of-8 from the field.

    Julius Randle continued his strong play as a starter with 23 points, nine rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block on 8-of-15 from the field and 7-of-9 from the free throw line.

    Kyle Kuzma started the game 3-of-5 in the first quarter for eight points but did not make another shot, going 0-of-7 from the floor the rest of the way to finish with eight points and two rebounds.

    Isaiah Thomas didn’t post an appealing stat line tonight, accumulating seven points, five assists, five turnovers and a minus-8 rating while converting only 3-of-15 from the field and missing all five of his 3-point attempts; Jamal Crawford (15 points on 6-of-11 shooting) got the better of him on the other end too. However, Thomas managed the tempo of the game well for the Lakers, and this is a major positive that has been overlooked. Getting accustomed to a new team is no easy task for any player, but it’s especially difficult for a point guard who has to learn all the new players around them. Thomas, while he hasn’t performed well on the stat sheet, has showed promise in the other intangible areas of the game and that could help lead to some success post-All-Star break.

    He is a great player who was a legitimate MVP candidate last season — he just needs time to continue to recover from last year’s hip injury as well as get himself into basketball shape. The Lakers will use the All-Star break to sort out some of the schematic issues created by their deadline deal. In the interim, Thomas will work in the gym to works on his game-shape and health. He will also be honored by having his jersey retired by his college team, the Washington Huskies.

    Key Stats and Observations

    • The two teams had identical rebounding stats in this contest with both teams grabbing 46 total rebounds, 11 offensive rebounds and 35 defensive rebounds.
    • The Lakers were badly hurt in the free throw department as they converted only 18-of-26 free throws (69.2 percent) vs. 29-of-31 (93.5 percent) for the Timberwolves. One key to the game was the Lakers inability to play defense without fouling in the fourth quarter as Minnesota went to the line 15 times, making 14 attempts.
    • Los Angeles did a good job defending the 3-point line through three quarters, holding the Timberwolves to 3-of-17 (17.6 percent). Minnesota heated up in the final period, knocking down 3-of-7 good for 42.8 percent. Los Angeles struggled from deep, making only 7-of-31 (22.6 percent) for the game.
    • The Lakers extended their league-leading totals in scoring in the paint with 62 points on Thursday. Unfortunately, they also continued their trend of allowing their opponents to do so as well, conceding 50 key points to the Timberwolves.
    • Minnesota accrued 10 blocks compared to only four for the Lakers. Butler punctuated the Timberwolves victory with two stellar blocks on one possession late in the fourth quarter — a block on a Randle dunk attempt and then following it up by swatting a Thomas finger roll.

    Up Next

    The Lakers will limp into the All-Star break in need of some much-needed R & R — recovery and resuscitation.

    For Los Angeles, that will come in the form of starting point guard Lonzo Ball, who is expected to return from an extended absence due to a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee. The Lakers have badly missed his defense at the point guard position, his ability to finish an offensive possession, as well as his past-first mentality that helps ignites the ball movement that has been sorely lacking in his absence.

    The Lakers will open the season’s final 25 games by hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Friday February 23. The last time the two teams met, Dallas defeated Los Angeles 130-123 in a game that destroyed the Lakers’ momentum and defensive identity. Los Angeles went from winning 12-of-16 to a three-game losing streak.

    One person responsible for the Lakers’ demise was NBA walking legend Dirk Nowtizki, who scored 22 points with four rebounds on an efficient 8-of-11 shooting from the field and 4-of-4 from 3-point range.

    Should Ball return, fans will be treated to a matchup of high pedigree point guards as he faces off with No. 9 overall pick Dennis Smith Jr.

Fantasy News

  • Trevon Bluiett
    PF, Utah Jazz

    Trevon Bluiett and Juwan Morgan sign with the Jazz in the hopes of one day playing in an NBA game.

    Bluiett was on a two-way contract with the Pelicans last season while Juwan Morgan played for the Jazz in the 2019 Summer League. They will both compete for a roster spot in training camp but neither is a guarantee to make the final roster. They both have yet to see the court in an NBA game and can be ignored from a fantasy perspective until that day comes.

    Source: Tony Jones on Twitter

  • Zach Collins
    C, Portland Trail Blazers

    Zach Collins (ankle) began daily contact workouts on Monday and is on pace to head into training camp fully healthy.

    Collins is heading into what could be a breakout season as he is likely to start at the power forward position. In the 2019 playoffs, the Gonzaga product blocked a shot in 11 of the 16 games including three games in which he blocked three, four and five respectively. Collins has averaged around 33% from distance throughout his career which is exactly what he shot in the postseason (7-21). If he is able to improve from long range and plays starters minutes, Collins is a can't-miss player. It's far from a guarantee though as the 21-year-old has never finished with standard-league value. It does seem like Collins will be ready for training camp barring a major setback.

    Source: The Athletic

  • Cory Joseph
    PG, Sacramento Kings

    Nick Nurse said that reports of Cory Joseph missing the FIBA World Cup are “incorrect”.

    Nurse added that he spoke to Joseph on Wednesday and that the guard has his flights booked to China. Joseph was in Canada’s camp at home earlier this month, but did not make the trip to Australia and has missed the past four exhibition games. The situation has become a little bit murky but Canada Basketball keeps holding out hope that Joseph will rejoin the team before they depart for China, which doesn’t happen until Monday.

    Source: John Casey on Twitter

  • Tyronn Lue
    PG, Los Angeles Clippers

    Shams Charania of The Athletic is reporting former Cavs championship-winning coach Tyronn Lue has agreed to join the Clippers as their top assistant coach to Doc Rivers.

    The Lakers and Clippers rivalry continues to heat up. Lue was very close to a deal with the Lakers in May to become their head coach, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement. Lue now joins Kawhi Leonard as another person to spurn the Lakers this offseason.

    Source: Shams Charania on Twitter

  • PJ Tucker
    SF, Houston Rockets

    P.J. Tucker says he is optimistic about signing a contract extension soon.

    The 34-year-old 3-and-D wing hopes to extend his deal with the Rockets, but a potential extension wouldn't begin until his age-36 season. Houston has him under contract for two more seasons at this point, so they may not be motivated enough to get something done this offseason. However, a maximum Tucker extension would only have him in the $10 million per year range. Even as a 37-year-old, that could be a great deal if he can keep up his current production. Tucker remains a sneaky source of threes and steals late in fantasy drafts or off the wire.

    Source: Kurt Helin on Twitter

  • Jaylen Adams
    PG, Milwaukee Bucks

    The Bucks officially announced the signings of guards Jaylen Adams and Rayjon Tucker on Tuesday.

    Adams and Tucker have their work cut out for them in their bid to claim a roster with the big club, as the Bucks have a reasonably deep guard rotation. Adams and Tucker are more than likely competing to get playing time in the G-League this season and can be ignored in fantasy.

    Source: NBA

  • Jeff Ledbetter
    G, San Antonio Spurs

    The Spurs have offered summer league guard Jeff Ledbetter an Exhibit 10 deal, but he is still mulling over his options which include playing in Europe.

    Ledbetter had a productive summer league and now finds himself with a chance to play for the Austin Spurs of the G-League. Ledbetter is sure to be staring at a bigger payday in Europe, so his choice will be an interesting one. We should have a decision soon.

    Source: Nicola Lupo on Twitter

  • Eric Mika
    C, Sacramento Kings

    The Kings announced on Tuesday that they signed summer league standout C Eric Mika to an exhibit 10 contract.

    The former BYU big man is now set up to play for the Stockton Kings of the G-League. The Kings have a deep big man rotation, and it's unlikely that we'll see much, if any, of Mika on the roster this season.

    Source: Sean Cunningham on Twitter

  • JA Morant
    PG, Memphis Grizzlies

    Ja Morant (right knee) said that he is completely healed from the minor knee surgery earlier this summer, saying he is "100 percent right now."

    Morant will look to get back into the swing of things in the coming weeks as he prepares for his rookie season. Morant has the talent and the role on rebuilding team and is undoubtedly going to cost a pretty penny in fantasy drafts.

    Source: Peter Edmiston on Twitter

  • Derrick Alston
    Team, New York Knicks

    The Westchester Knicks have named Derrick Alston as the new head coach, replacing Mike Miller who was promoted to join David Fizdale’s staff.

    Alston, a former NBA player, has been an assistant for Westchester for four years. Before that, Alston was a player development coach with the Rockets. This will be Alston’s first head coaching gig as he continues to move up the ladder.

    Source: Ian Begley on Twitter