Timberwolves Defeat Lakers with Lonzo Ball Out; Jimmy Butler Drops 28 Points

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  JANUARY 1: Jimmy Butler #23 of the Minnesota Timberwolves handles the ball against the Los Angeles Lakers on January 1, 2018 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/Getty Images

A matchup between one of the hottest teams in the NBA and one of the coldest went just about as expected.

The Minnesota Timberwolves used a fast start to earn a 114-96 win over the Los Angeles Lakers at Target Center Monday behind 28 points from Jimmy Butler.

This is the seventh straight loss for Los Angeles—fifth straight with Lonzo Ball out of the lineup—to fall to 11-25 on the year. The team has dropped 10 of the last 11 games to fall to last place in the Western Conference. Minnesota improved to 24-14 with its seventh win in the last eight.

Butler has been red-hot for the Timberwolves during this stretch, scoring at least 20 points in every game while remaining efficient. He only needed 14 shots from the field to get his points in this one, finishing 11-of-11 from the free-throw line.

The guard also made an impact in other ways, adding nine assists and three steals to his impressive night to go with some highlight-reel plays on each end:

Turnovers were a bit of an issue for him and the rest of the Wolves, but the team attacked the paint all night instead of settling for outside looks, resulting in easy shots. Andrew Wiggins scored 21 in the win, while Karl-Anthony Towns had his 30th double-double of the season with 16 points and 13 rebounds.

It was a one-sided effort from nearly the opening tip, as Los Angeles struggled to even keep things close. Minnesota opened the game scoring the first 16 points, mirroring its hot start from Sunday's win over the Indiana Pacers, as Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic noted:

Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson, two players mentioned in trade rumors, were the only ones keeping Los Angeles in the game during the tough road battle. Clarkson scored 20 points off the bench, while Randle had 15 points and 12 rebounds in his third start in a row.

However, this wasn't enough to cut the lead within 10 points during the entire fourth quarter.

Trevor Lane of Lakers Nation discussed the emotional challenge of Monday's game:

With Ball still out with a shoulder injury, Brook Lopez dealing with an ankle problem and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope unable to travel out the state, however, there simply wasn't enough talent on the floor to keep up with one of the best teams in the NBA.

The Lakers will have an off-day Tuesday before starting a five-game homestand against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Minnesota will go on the road Wednesday to take on the Brooklyn Nets.

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