The Los Angeles Lakers dropped five of their last six games, with the losses coming by an average of five points. The Lakers will try to end the mounting frustration over close losses with a win on Christmas Day when they host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Los Angeles was playing the second night of a back-to-back on Saturday after a 113-106 loss at defending champion Golden State on Friday and missed a pair of 3-point attempts in the final seconds while falling at home 95-92 to Portland on Saturday. “Going in I told the guys we’ve gotta be ready, we’ve gotta be professionals,” Lakers coach Luke Walton told reporters. “We’re gonna be tired. It’s our job to be ready. I didn’t think we did a good job of that. I thought guys on our bench were pouting. I thought there was too much feeling sorry for ourselves as opposed to being professionals.” The Timberwolves are trying to sweep a three-game road trip and earn their fourth consecutive win after knocking off Denver and Phoenix in the first two stops. “Just find ways to win,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau told reporters. “This is a tough league. I know everyone says, ‘Well, you should win this game, you should win that game.’ It doesn’t work like that. That’s not how the league is.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (20-13): Minnesota’s recent winning streak is being sparked by an uptick in production from veteran swingman Jimmy Butler, who is averaging 31.3 points on 54.5 percent shooting over the last three games. “Jimmy Butler,” Thibodeau told reporters when asked how his team was able to pull out a 115-106 win at Phoenix on Saturday. “Jimmy Butler was not going to let us lose the game and you can’t say enough about what he does for this team. He has changed everything for us.” Butler is averaging 26.3 points this month - up from 16.2 in October and 17.9 in November - and the Timberwolves are 7-4 in 11 December games.
ABOUT THE LAKERS (11-20): Los Angeles shot 42.4 percent from the floor in Saturday’s loss while ending a seven-game streak of scoring at least 106 points, and rookie Kyle Kuzma finally began to cool off. Kuzma matched Jordan Clarkson with a team-high 18 points but was just 6-of-19 from the floor after averaging 27.5 points on 60.9 percent shooting in the previous four contests. Fellow rookie Lonzo Ball came up two rebounds shy of a triple-double on Saturday but went 4-of-13 from the floor after appearing to break through with a 9-of-16 effort in Friday’s setback.
1. Lakers SG Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is 4-of-23 from 3-point range in his last three games.
2. Timberwolves SG Jamal Crawford is averaging 18 points over the last three games, up from a season mark of 9.7.
3. The home team took the last six in the series, with Minnesota’s last win in Los Angeles coming on Oct. 28, 2015.
PREDICTION: Timberwolves 121, Lakers 119