With the Los Angeles Lakers currently holding a slim lead over the Utah Jazz for the eighth and final seed in the Western Conference, every game is vital.
The Lakers have to hold on for 11 more games to reach the playoffs.
Fortunately for them, they get to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday, who are 24-44 this season and just lost to the Chicago Bulls, 104-97.
The Lakers fell to the Golden State Warriors on Monday, 109-103. They allowed the Warriors to shoot 48 percent from the floor, including 10-of-23 from downtown. Los Angeles has had issues defending the three-ball lately.
Monday's defeat came after the Lakers lost to the Washington Wizards on Friday, 103-100. They shot 48 percent from the floor, but they also allowed the Wizards to shoot 46 percent. That was in large part due to the fact that the Wizards scored 21 points on 17 Lakers turnovers. Kobe Bryant had six turnovers himself.
Minnesota ranks 24th in field-goal percentage and 23rd in opponents' field-goal percentage this season, per TeamRankings.com. Their offensive efficiency ranks 25th.
That's a welcome sign for a Lakers squad that can score, but has had trouble on the defensive side of the ball. Los Angeles ranks 10th in field-goal percentage and eighth in offensive efficiency.
The Lakers last played the Timberwolves on Feb. 28. In the 116-94 win, Kobe Bryant scored 33 points while the Lakers shot 53 percent from the floor as a team. Ricky Rubio is a concern for a team that doesn't defend point guards well, but, then again, Rubio went for 13 points and 13 assists on Feb. 28 and the Timberwolves still got blown out.
Of course, Rubio only had 11 shot attempts in that game. If the Timberwolves have any chance of winning this game, Rubio is going to have to shoot (and make) more.
In the end, it's too much of a mountain to climb for the Timberwolves. That includes on the glass—the Lakers rank sixth in total rebounding rate and eighth in defensive rebounding rate.
Expect the Lakers to score over 100 points en route to their 37th victory of the season on Wednesday.
Prediction: Lakers 110, Timberwolves 100
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