The Los Angeles Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves in the seven-eight matchup of the NBA Play-In Tournament. The winner of this game will go on to play the Memphis Grizzlies in the first round of the NBA Playoffs while the loser will play the winner of the nine-ten matchup for a chance to be the eighth seed in the West.
On paper, this matchup vs the Timberwolves is perhaps the toughest the Lakers could have asked for in the play-in. There are very few teams in the league that can handle the size that LA can throw at them and Minnesota is one of them. In terms of overall talent, the Timberwolves are far better than both the Pelicans and Thunder.
All that being said, this matchup in the play-in just got exponentially easier for the Lakers. The Timberwolves gifted the Lake Show wonderful news on Monday as it was reported that Rudy Gobert would not be traveling with the team to Los Angeles.
Rudy Gobert not playing gives the Lakers a huge advantage over the Timberwolves.
Talk about a bad time to have some in-fighting. The Minnesota Timberwolves could have let cooler heads prevail and hoped for Gobert to reconcile the situation in time for Tuesday’s game against the Lakers but that is not the case at all. The team felt it was fitting to send a message to the rest of the locker room and Gobert will be out of action.
Gobert has his flaws, particularly in a playoff matchup, but in this specific game, he was huge for what the Timberwolves needed to accomplish. The Lakers are not a team that is going to thrive in getting Gobert out of the paint where he is comfortable. They are a team that is going to attack Gobert in his wheelhouse.
With Gobert not playing, it is hard to see how Minnesota is going to handle the Lakers defensively. Any possession with Karl-Anthony Towns on Anthony Davis is going to be a massive win and the Lakers are now going to have a lot of those.
Add in the fact that Naz Reid is out of action and suddenly the Timberwolves are no longer a team that can handle the size that the Lakers are going to throw at them. Los Angeles was already favored in this matchup and now things just got much, much easier.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed in this league and if LA lets its guard down then the team is going to be in for a rude awakening. But it is hard not to love LA’s chances even more after this news.