For the 3rd time in a little over two weeks the Lakers play the Timberwolves. The first of those three, the Lakers won in overtime in Los Angeles. In the 2nd, the team lost on the road by 15 after having to venture east for a 1-game road trip. Who wins the rubber match tonight? I know you’re super intrigued!
Or maybe you’re not. But with the Lakers pretty much locked into the 3rd worst record in the league, you might as well root for these guys to keep up their winning ways! (I’m only partially kidding. The tank wars have had fans up in arms recently with the W over the Kings on the same night the Suns actually won a game over the Thunder nearly causing riots. I’m of a different mindset, but to each their own.)
Anyways, the Lakers have actually won 3 in a row and have gone .500 over their last 8 games. A stretch that started with the aforementioned win over the Wolves. If the Lakers were to actually win tonight to get to 4 in a row, it would be their longest streak of the season, besting their (lone) 3-game streak to get them to 4-3 for the year.
I’d make a joke here, but in all honesty I’m happy to see this young group find ways to play well enough to win and then actually make plays to get them home. I know these things don’t exist in a vacuum, but in a vacuum, guys like Russell and Randle and Ingram getting this type of experience where they are the main reasons for the team winning. I get some people don’t see it this way, but I believe them learning what it takes to get wins actually matters and is a step beyond simply playing well.
As for the Wolves, it’s hard to look at this season as anything but a disappointment when staring at their wins total. Many analysts pegged them as a potential playoff team, but they’ve only won 31 games on the season after struggling for too long to fix their 2nd half woes and late game collapses in close games. However, only looking at this from a W/L standpoint would be a mistake. Thibs is in his 1st season and it’s taken some time for him to fully get his players to execute what he wants. In the 2nd half of the year they’ve played better and even if the wins haven’t jumped to where they’d want, some of the individual players have been great.
Towns has been a beast lately, putting up ridiculous totals all across the stat sheet. Andrew Wiggins has been wonderful too, scoring in bunches. Even Ricky Rubio has caught the scoring bug, putting up high point totals while hitting a higher percentage of his jumpers than he has in his career. In other words, the lofty projections may have simply been a year early for this group. If they can carry over this momentum into next season, they will be a problem to deal with next year.
Which brings me back to the Lakers. It’s hard to know how meaningful this late season surge will matter for next year, but I’m of the mind that getting a taste of improved play which has actually translated to wins can serve as a springboard into the summer and next season. I’ve long said that player development isn’t always linear, but I also believe that getting a feel for what helps you win in the NBA and then working on your individual game(s) to provide more of those things offers a nice template to continue to improve.
Whether this is true for these young Lakers remains to be seen. But if there’s a reason for me to intently watch these final 3 games, that is a major one.
Where you can watch: 6:30pm on Spectrum Sportsnet.