Lakers' true Achilles' heel was exposed vs Timberwolves (and it's terrifying)

The Lakers have a massive issue that could stop them from making a deep playoff run.
Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James, Anthony Davis
Los Angeles Lakers, LeBron James, Anthony Davis / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers had to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday evening if they wanted to avoid in the Play-In Tournament. LA had won four straight and nine of their last ten. They were hot and looking like a threat in the crowded Western Conference. The Lakers had moved up to eighth for a moment and were just a half-game back of seventh. It was possible to keep climbing, but not a focus.

Things unraveled quickly on their home floor. The Lakers were up four after the first quarter, but Anthony Davis left the game and never returned. He aggravated an eye injury, which he first hurt against the Warriors on March 16. AD often gets saddled with an injury-prone label, but he has played 74 games this season and there is optimism he will be ready when the Lakers host the Warriors on Tuesday night.

It has been a disappointing season in Los Angeles, but they still believe in their playoff chances. The Lakers went from the Play-In Tournament to the conference finals in 2023, but Minnesota exposed a massive weakness, which could have LeBron James and company watching the playoffs this year.

The Lakers lack big-man depth and need Anthony Davis to play a massive role

LeBron James missed Sunday’s game with flu-like symptoms, which made things even worse for the Lakers against one of the best teams in the West.

After Davis went out, LA was relying on Jaxson Hayes at the five. The seven-footer played over 30 minutes for just the third time this season.  He finished with 19 points, ten rebounds, five steals, and one block on eight of nine shooting from the field. It was a strong performance, but the Lakers lost his 33 minutes by 14 points.

When he needed a rest, head coach Darvin Ham was forced to go small with Rui Hachimura at the five. The Lakers have nobody else. Christian Wood is likely out for the year, and rookie Colton Castleton has only played 56 total minutes this season. LA has no depth inside.

They will rely heavily on AD in the playoffs, but if he is forced to miss time, things will likely unravel quickly as they did in a 127-117 loss to the Timberwolves on April 7. The Lakers have saddled him with a massive workload this season. He is averaging 35.5 minutes per game and has played over 62 contests for the first time since 2018. They need Davis when the games matter most, but it will be a tall task after a grueling season.

Coach Ham will shorten the rotation in the playoffs. It means more minutes for their best players, but could be problematic for an aging roster hoping to make a deep run.

They must be able to defeat teams with size. The Wolves have Rudy Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns is making his way back from a knee injury. Denver is the reigning champion and has the best center in the NBA. Domantas Sabonis and the Kings have dominated the Lakers this season, which could be a potential Play-In showdown. The Lakers will have their hands full with size and need Anthony Davis playing 35-plus if they want any chance of defeating those teams.

The Los Angeles Lakers displayed an Achilles heel against the Timberwolves on Sunday night. Can others exploit it and send them home early? It is something to watch closely as the postseason kicks off.