The Los Angeles Lakers became the first team to ever win the NBA In-Season Tournament earlier this month, all but confirming that the tournament's MVP trophy will eventually be named after LeBron James. Since then, though, it has been anything but sunshine and rainbows for the purple and gold.
The Lakers have played five games since the IST Championship Game and are 1-4 in those five. The team's only win was a three-point victory over the San Antonio Spurs where the Spurs nearly marched back and stole the game in the fourth quarter.
It has been ugly for the Lakers and Tuesday night continued that ugliness with a loss to one of the worst teams in the league, the Chicago Bulls. The team is not getting any time to reflect on that loss, as the Lakers will be right back in action on Thursday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers may reach a new rock-bottom on Thursday against the Timberwolves
Road back-to-backs are never easy, especially when the two best players on the team are either old or injury-prone. This is also a traveling back-to-back for the T-Wolves as they played on Wednesday in Philadelphia, but the much younger roster can withstand it more than the Lakers.
The road back-to-back has already made a difference as the Lakers announced that LeBron James would not be suiting up on Thursday. That shouldn't be much of a surprise, and is another reason why this game could be very ugly.
Making this worse is the fact that Anthony Davis has been dealing with a lingering ankle injury that he tweaked against the Bulls on Wednesday. Davis returned to the game but the ankle is obviously bothering him and will impact his play against Minnesota, if he does play.
This is not the same Timberwolves team that the Lakers beat in the Play-In Tournament last season. The Timberwolves have looked like the best team in the Western Conference this season and have really elevated their play. Anthony Edwards is continuing his ascension to superstardom while the Rudy Gobert/Karl-Anthony Towns dynamic is starting to really work.
The one strength the Lakers typically have in matchups is their size and ability to play bully ball. That is not something the Lakers can do against the Timberwolves, which is going to make Thursday night feel like a really long game for the Lake Show.
Barring a prime performance from LeBron James or a breakout scoring night from someone like Rui Hachimura or D'Angelo Russell, the stars are aligning for the Lakers to lose this game and lose it in ugly fashion. This will be the team's fifth loss in the last six, and will truly feel like rock bottom for a team that was on top of the world three weeks ago.
Thankfully, we are still in December and if there was ever a time to hit rock bottom it is now. Just don't be too surprised (or upset) if things go very wrong for the Lakers on Thursday.