The Lakers lost their third straight game on Thursday night, falling 119-111 to the Timberwolves. It was a game of ups and downs, one that saw the Lakers take control, fend off several attempts by Minnesota to seize it back, only to succumb in the 4th quarter when Jamal Crawford got hot and Jimmy Butler played like Jimmy Butler.
In the big picture, this game probably went somewhat as expected. The Wolves are the better team, them being ahead at the final buzzer shouldn’t surprise. That they were carried late by Butler also shocks no one, he’s the best player on either team and the Lakers were ill-equipped to deal with him on either end of the floor when things got tight.
That said, when zooming in, I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t frustrate even if the final score doesn’t surprise. The Lakers controlled a lot of this game. Their starters more than held their own, they caught lightning in a bottle when Ivica Zubac couldn’t miss for the bench unit in the 2nd quarter, and the game was close enough late to get one’s hopes up.
Those hopes were dashed, though, by Jamal Crawford parlaying a slop bank shot on a 15 foot elbow jumper vs. a hard Zubac close out into a shot making demonstration which turned the tide of the game in the Wolves favor. Then, when the game got tight, Butler brought his team home by creating shots for himself and teammates on one end and saving buckets with key blocked shots on the other.
The Lakers could have won, but didn’t. The Wolves probably should have lost, but pulled it out. Again, considering the standing of each team none of that should surprise. But not being surprised does not equate to not being frustrated in the path to the finish line. So, here I am a day later gnashing my teeth as I revisit it all.
Stepping back to view the entire board again, the Lakers could use this break.
Lonzo Ball’s been out for what feels like a month and the team desperately needs more wing help after trading Jordan Clarkson. Ball won’t help much in the “get buckets” area, but he’ll help organize the team’s sets, offer some shooting from the perimeter (assuming his upward trend before injury was real), and bring a chaos generating ability due to his pace-pushing and defensive approach.
Beyond Lonzo, the team just needs to recharge some. The team was riding a wave before the trade deadline, but those sails got deflated some with jettisoning of Clarkson and Larry Nance. This group needs some time to regroup, some practice time (which will come next week), and everyone healthy for the final stretch run. I don’t think they’ll sniff even the edge of the playoff race, but the goal is to do just that and this break should help them refocus and re-energize.
Enjoy the All-Star break, you guys. We’ll have more in the coming days.