Karl-Anthony Towns Dominates as LeBron James, Lakers Fall to T-Wolves

Adam WellsDecember 18, 2021

MINNEAPOLIS, MN -  DECEMBER 17: Karl-Anthony Towns #32 of the Minnesota Timberwolves drives to the basket during the game against the Los Angeles Lakers on December 17, 2021 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 2021 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

Despite playing without Anthony Edwards and Taurean Prince because of health and safety protocols, the Minnesota Timberwolves were able to score a 110-92 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night at Target Center. 

The T-Wolves announced earlier in the day that Edwards and Prince would be unavailable. 

The Lakers were also playing with just 10 players because of the NBA's health and safety protocols. Russell Westbrook was cleared for this game after entering health and safety protocols on Thursday. Isaiah Thomas made his debut for the Lakers after signing a 10-day contract earlier in the day. 

Minnesota has now won three straight games after dropping five straight from Dec. 1 to Dec. 10. Head coach Chris Finch has his team within one game of the .500 mark (14-15) and just 1.5 games behind the Lakers for the No. 6 spot in the Western Conference. 

This was another complete performance by the T-Wolves following a 17-point win over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Their offense cracked the 100-point barrier for the 16th consecutive game.   

The Timberwolves have liked playing the Lakers this season. They have won both matchups by an average of 21 points. 

Karl-Anthony Towns led the way for Minnesota with a double-double of 28 points and 10 rebounds. Jarred Vanderbilt used his size to grab 16 rebounds. D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley both scored 17 points. 

The Lakers only shot 38.5 percent from the field and made just 12 of their 43 three-point attempts. Thomas did have a good comeback performance with 19 points off the bench. 

Anthony Davis' knee is the biggest story for Los Angeles coming out of the game. He left in the third quarter after Jaden McDaniels fell into his leg. The eight-time All-Star was playing in his second straight game after sitting out the previous two games with a knee injury. 

LeBron James did have a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds, but he only shot 5-of-13 from the field and had nearly as many turnovers (four) as assists (five). 

Notable Game Stats

  • Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN): 28 points (11-of-20 FG), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks
  • D'Angelo Russell (MIN): 17 points (6-of-15 FG), 6 assists, 3 steals
  • Malik Beasley (MIN): 17 points (7-of-18 FG), 4 assists, 4 rebounds
  • LeBron James (LAL): 18 points (5-of-13 FG), 10 rebounds, 5 assists
  • Anthony Davis (LAL): 9 points (4-of-7 FG), 1 rebound
  • Isaiah Thomas (LAL): 19 points (5-of-12 FG), 2 rebounds, 1 assist


Short-Handed Lakers Overmatched in Defeat

Neither team came into this game at full strength, but it was much more apparent from the Lakers side that they were going to struggle. 

Los Angeles scored just 16 points and shot 0-of-10 from three-point range in the first quarter, and Davis briefly left the game after rolling his ankle. He returned in the second quarter but left a second time in the third quarter and appeared to be favoring his knee after falling to the ground while walking to the locker room. 

Brett Siegel @BrettSiegelNBA

For clarity, LeBron James was being guarded by Jaden McDaniels and when he pushed off him, McDaniels fell backwards into Davis’ left leg/knee. <br><br>In the tunnel, Davis went down and was in a lot of pain. Not a good sign for the Lakers’ big man. <a href="https://t.co/yTC3HrFgLL">https://t.co/yTC3HrFgLL</a>

At one point, Towns appeared to make the "too-small" gesture toward Minnesota's bench after backing Davis down for an easy bucket in the second quarter. 

Davis was hardly the only problem for the Lakers. James only attempted five shots in the first half. No player on the team reached double figures in scoring through the first two quarters. 

Sam Quinn @SamQuinnCBS

Isaiah Thomas has as many points for the Lakers as LeBron James and Anthony Davis through two quarters. <br><br>Imagine hearing that as recently as, like, Tuesday.

Los Angeles' shooting did get better in the second quarter with 29 points. But the team still went into halftime trailing by 54-45 because the defense allowed Minnesota to score 31 points in the second quarter. 

James had one of his worst games of the season Friday. He didn't hit the 10-point mark until early in the fourth quarter. 

Once the Lakers fell behind big in the third, James started to become disengaged in the way that he can when he's frustrated. The 17-time All-Star would often stand around without the ball in his hands. 

ESPN @espn

LeBron passed it off Vanderbilt's face and Beasley dunked it 😳 <a href="https://t.co/TPUrWganbW">pic.twitter.com/TPUrWganbW</a>

With James struggling to find his rhythm and Davis only able to play 20 minutes, Kent Bazemore was the team's leading scorer through three quarters with 11 points. 

James did start to play more aggressively at the start of the fourth. He scored Los Angeles' first five points, but the team was trailing by 20 when he came to life. 

Westbrook, who wasn't even certain to play until a few hours before tipoff, wasn't much of a factor. The nine-time All-Star attempted a season-low seven shots from the field and only had three assists. 

This was always going to be a difficult game for the Lakers to win. They were already thin when their roster was fully healthy. Friday saw head coach Frank Vogel putting together a skeleton crew that didn't practice together in order to forge any sort of chemistry. 

The best thing for the Lakers will be to just turn the page on this game and continue to wait for the rest of their roster to return. This isn't a performance worth panicking over because they had so much working against them. 


T-Wolves' Size Overwhelms Lakers Lineup

Because of the injury to Davis and DeAndre Jordan's general ineffectiveness, it wasn't a surprise to see the 6'11" Towns and 6'9" Vanderbilt have their way with the Lakers.  

Towns was scoring at all three levels. He made multiple three-pointers for the second consecutive game, with neither Jordan nor Davis able to keep up. 


Going to work down low early...now Towns is banging home threes 😳<br><br>He's up to 19 in the 1st half on ESPN <a href="https://t.co/QQyIH6T2MZ">pic.twitter.com/QQyIH6T2MZ</a>

Jon Krawczynski @JonKrawczynski

Towns is just cooking Anthony Davis. Whatever he wants, he's taking.

Vanderbilt didn't dominate in the scoring department with just four points, but he grabbed a season-high 16 rebounds (eight offensive). He also had three steals and two blocks on the defensive end. 

Jon Krawczynski @JonKrawczynski

Jarred Vanderbilt with a career-high 16 rebounds, just grabbed 2 offensive rebounds on one possession and Bazemore finally just tackled him to keep him from getting a third.

Second-chance opportunities were a key difference in the game. The Timberwolves had 15 offensive rebounds compared to one for the Lakers. That helped them get 20 more shot attempts than Los Angeles (98-78).

Four of Minnesota's five starters finished the game with a plus-minus rating of at least 23. Jaden McDaniels finished plus-10 in 22 minutes off the bench. 

One of the biggest differences for the Timberwolves so far this season compared to last season is on defense. They entered this game ranked 13th in defensive rating (108.8 points allowed per 100 possessions), per Basketball Reference

Minnesota hasn't ranked higher than 21st in that category since the 2013-14 season. 

Towns' defense against the Lakers was exceptional:

ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo

Karl-Anthony Towns was excellent on both ends of the floor against the Lakers.<br><br>He notched his 10th game with 25 Pts &amp; 10 Reb this season, 3rd most in the NBA.<br><br>The Lakers were 1-10 on shots contested by Towns as either the primary or help defender. <a href="https://t.co/80ZNV7zZqN">pic.twitter.com/80ZNV7zZqN</a>

If Finch can keep the Timberwolves playing at that level on the defensive end, they are going to be a factor in the playoff race. Their offense should be fine as long as Towns and Edwards stay healthy. 

Despite having a 14-15 record, the T-Wolves feel like they are headed in the right direction for the first time in many years.     


What's Next?

The Lakers are scheduled to wrap up their three-game road trip on Sunday against the Chicago Bulls at the United Center. Minnesota will host the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday in the first half of a home-and-home series between the two teams.