Here is what you need to know before the Lakers face off against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The spotlight for this game will be on a player who dominated the L.A. hardwood over a decade ago, as Shaquille O’Neal will become just the fourth Laker to receive the honor of a bronze statue outside of Staples Center. O’Neal — who will be joining Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Jerry West and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar — will have one of the most unique statues in sports, as it will depict him dunking while suspended 10 feet off the ground.
Thank You Buss Family! #speechless pic.twitter.com/vkcKtKB7i6
— SHAQ (@SHAQ) March 22, 2017
While the focus will surely be on the legendary O’Neal, current starting center Ivica Zubac is just getting his career started. On Thursday, the 20-year-old spoke at length about how he has progressed through his rookie season to the point that he leads his draft class in field goal percentage (54.2).
The Lakers are coming off a distant loss to the LA Clippers on Tuesday, which saw Brandon Ingram as one of the night’s few silver linings. The second-overall pick put up 21 points — just one off his career-high — for his ninth straight game of double-digit scoring. Ingram is considered probable for this matchup after leaving Thursday’s practice early due to patellar tendinitis.
Brandon Ingram swipes it from Griffin on one end and gets the reverse layup to fall on the other! pic.twitter.com/3vWta5mZJT
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 22, 2017
The Lakers and Timberwolves have only faced off once this year, and Minnesota came away with a 26-point win behind a monstrous effort from Andrew Wiggins. The 2015 Rookie of the Year had the finest performance of his young career, racking up a personal-best 47 points, while hitting 17 free throws along the way.
5) With only 12 games left in the season, the Wolves currently sit 5.5 games behind Denver for the final seed in the Western Conference playoffs. These slim odds took a dive this past week, as Minnesota has lost all of its last four games. Defense has been the root of this, as they are allowing 115.8 points on a league-high 54.1 percent shooting during this span.
The Wolves have slumped despite the potentially All-NBA caliber play of Karl-Anthony Towns. Since the All-Star break, the reigning Rookie of the Year has been on a tear, racking up the NBA’s fifth-most points (28.4) and third-most rebounds (13.9). Plus, he has scored in double figures 69 times in 70 games this year.
Wiggins, meanwhile, has certainly been holding his own, averaging 23.0 points per night. His 3-point shot has been much-improved this year, as he is hitting 34.3 percent from deep, but the majority of his damage comes at the rim and from mid-range.
As a whole, Minnesota doesn’t do much damage from 3-point range, as it averages the NBA’s second-fewest 3-pointers (7.5). This problem has been compounded by the loss of Zach LaVine (torn ACL), who ranked 12th in the league in made triples (2.6).
9) With LaVine out, fellow UCLA product Shabazz Muhammad has stepped in to fill the void. Over his last four games, the Long Beach native is averaging 18.5 points despite shooting just 3-of-14 on 3-pointers.
This game will likely end up a shootout, as neither team has been particularly adept at stopping its opponents. The Lakers currently allow the league’s highest field goal percentage (48.3), while the Wolves surrender the third-highest (47.1).
Lakers: Brandon Ingram (right patellar tendinitis), Larry Nance Jr. (right wrist sprain) and Tyler Ennis (left shoulder soreness) are probable. Timofey Mozgov (left ankle sprain) is questionable.
Timberwolves: Zach LaVine (torn left ACL), Nemanja Bjelica (fractured left foot) and Nikola Pekovic (right ankle) are out for the season.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum Deportes
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW