The Lakers are 2-0 on a three game road trip which ends tonight in Minnesota. The game is the 2nd night of a back to back and one which has them traveling from New Orleans to Minnesota. This is not the most brutal flight (roughly two and a half hours), but it can be at least somewhat compounded by the fact that they were just in Sacramento on Thursday. That’s a lot of miles in only 4 days and it would not surprise me if some of this caught up to them.
That said, the Lakers continue to win games using a communal approach where Luke Walton has masterfully distributed minutes so on single player is ever overextended. A blowout helped against the Pelicans for sure, but no player was on the court for more than 28 minutes last night which is right in line with season norms. This type of minute allocation helps combat schedule issues by keeping players as fresh as they can be considering the rigors of the season.
How much that rest matters is only a side story today, though. The Lakers could have been coming off a brutal stretch or had a week off heading into Minnesota and I think all the focus would be on the Lakers playing the team many around the league see as the potential heir-apparent. The Lakers, of course, would prefer experts look at them that way, but instead it’s the Wolves, with Andrew Wiggins, Karl Towns, Zach Lavine, and Kris Dunn. That young core (which isn’t even all of them, by the way) is coached by Tom Thibodeau and is hyped as the team of the future.
In other words, the Wolves have the rep the Lakers want. This alone makes this game fun. Add to the fact that the Lakers at 6-4 are where the Wolves at 2-6 want to be and the results take on a different level of stakes even if we are still at such an early part of the season. I mean, the Lakers can get their 4th road win over the season today and move to 3 games over .500 while the Wolves would very much like to avoid falling to 5 games under that threshold.
That’s the big picture, macro level analysis. On the micro level, I love the individual match ups of this game. At some point we will see Russell vs. Dunn, Randle vs. Towns, and Clarkson vs. Lavine. If Ingram plays (he is questionable with the ankle sprain he suffered in NOLA), we will also see him match up with Wiggins. There is intrigue in every one of those battles and I could spend 1,500 words just writing about those — it is just so much young talent. And I could probably give you another 800 or so just talking about Walton’s offense and Thibs’ defense as the battle within the battle.
I will spare you that, though.
What I will say is that in so many ways this is a measuring stick game for two young teams, both of which are well coached. Add on the aforementioned stakes and I am anxious to see how both teams come out and whether the Lakers can carry some of their road momentum forward to get another good win.
Where you can watch: 4pm start time on Spectrum Sportsnet.