Will struggle for the Lakers: D’Angelo Russell
This is probably an unpopular take considering the added narrative to this game for D’Angelo Russell. This is a revenge game for Russell, who is playing the team that so easily traded him at the deadline.
Minnesota did not have to trade Russell. The team was in playoff contention and it is not like it was getting a huge upgrade in return in Mike Conley. Instead, this looked to be a trade with addition-by-subtraction logic for the T-Wolves and that is not going to go over Russell’s head.
While it would be great to see Russell torch his prior team, the matchup is not very favorable for him, especially on the defensive end. Russell is a much better offensive player for what the Lakers need him to do but his defense is still rather suspect.
Minnesota is going to be hunting Russell and is definitely going to look to get him matched up one-on-one with Anthony Edwards. The more that happens for the Lakers the less likely they are to win the game. That is not the matchup the Lakers want to happen.
Offensively, the Timberwolves know what Russell brings to the table and are likely going to try and goad him into playing hero ball and not getting his superstar teammates involved. That has not been a huge problem in LA but is has been a problem in the past.
Add in the fact that Russell has a lingering foot injury that he is playing with and this does not look like a great matchup against his former team.