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Timberwolves’ twin towers look to limit winless Lakers

Sportsnaut
Oct 26, 2022; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert (27) works past San Antonio Spurs center Jakob Poeltl (25) in the second quarter at Target Center. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Bruce Kluckhohn-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers are just four games into their season and it already feels like they’re running out of time.

The Lakers will try to avoid matching their worst start in 65 years when they visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night in Minneapolis.

Los Angeles is off to an 0-4 start, matching the 2015-16 season and one loss shy of the beginning of the 2014-15 campaign, the final two seasons with Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers have lost their first five games just one other time since the 1957-58 season, when they were based in Minneapolis and dropped their first seven games.

“We’re not going to be in this for too long,” Lakers center Anthony Davis said. “Once you get that first win under your belt, you kind of just get that monkey off your back.”

A major issue for the Lakers is they’re shooting 33 for 148 from 3-point range this season, the worst 3-point percentage (22.3) over any four-game span by any team during an NBA season.

Lakers star LeBron James, who’s 0-4 for the first time since his rookie season when the Cleveland Cavaliers opened the 2003-04 campaign at 0-5, had eight turnovers in Wednesday’s loss against the Denver Nuggets, something he attributed to not looking for his own shot more often.

That mindset will change moving forward, he said.

“I was coming off a lot of screens, looking to pass, get guys involved and I wasn’t aggressive enough,” James said. “Those were careless turnovers on my part.”

Meanwhile, the experiment of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert is progressing well in Minneapolis.

Towns has moved to power forward to make room for Gobert, the three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year who was traded from the Utah Jazz over the summer in exchange for multiple players and future first-round picks.

The 6-foot-11 Towns is averaging 20.4 points and 7.4 rebounds through the first five games, while the 7-foot-1 Gobert is averaging 13.6 points and 14 rebounds.

Minnesota coach Chris Finch said the sacrifice Towns is making to play a different position demonstrates how valuable he is to the Timberwolves.

Towns, who averages 11.3 rebounds for his career, doesn’t have as many opportunities on the glass with Gobert controlling the paint, but he’s able to get more involved with the playmaking. Towns is averaging 5.2 assists, compared with 3.1 for his career.

“That guy is All-NBA,” Finch said of Towns. “There’s no other All-NBA player who is being asked to play a completely different position, and one that he’s willing to do, and has approached it with an open mindset. And he’s actually embraced it.”

Finch said Towns’ position switch has also made Gobert a much more dynamic offensive player.

“There’s lots of things to be excited about,” Finch said. “We’ve just got to connect all the dots right now.”

Towns and Gobert seemed to open up the perimeter for the Timberwolves in their most recent win.

Minnesota made a franchise-record 10 3-pointers on 13 attempts in the first quarter against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday before finishing 20 for 34 from beyond the arc in the 134-122 win.

It showed much improvement by the Timberwolves, who lost to the Spurs 115-106 on Monday. They play again on Sunday, their third meeting in seven days.

“We don’t like the effort we put in (Monday) night, but we also don’t believe that’s who we really are either,” Finch said.

The Lakers are expected to have Russell Westbrook available after he missed the loss to the Nuggets with a sore hamstring.

The 2017 NBA MVP and nine-time All Star guard is averaging 10.3 points in three games, but is shooting 28.9 percent from the floor and 8.3 percent from beyond the arc.

–Field Level Media