Preview: Brandon Ingram Returns as Lakers take on Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves
Apr 6, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers guard Josh Hart (5) shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves guard Tyus Jones (1) during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After another crushing loss to the San Antonio Spurs, the Los Angeles Lakers look to get back on track on Monday as they head to the Twin Cities. The Lakers will be trying to get back in the win column against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Here’s three things to watch for during Monday night’s matchup:

Who will start?

Suspensions for Rajon Rondo and Brandon Ingram had the silver lining of forcing Luke Walton’s hand in some rotation decisions, namely getting Lonzo Ball the starting job at the point guard position. With Ingram returning from his four-game punishment, Walton will be forced to make an executive decision on Monday, although right now, it seems like Ingram will be starting.

Ball, LeBron James and JaVale McGee are pretty much secured in the starting lineup, effectively leaving two positions open for the trio of Josh Hart, Kyle Kuzma and Ingram. Hart and Kuzma excelled when placed in the starting lineup and alongside James but Ingram is the best player out of the group. One may argue that Ingram could be the hub of the offense off the bench but his defense would be missed in the starting lineup. It should be noted that the current starting lineup’s numbers are amplified significantly due to a blowout win over the Phoenix Suns. There’s simply too small of a sample size to designate it as the true correct decision.

If Ingram starts over Kuzma, which seems to be the most likely option, Walton will have to find ways to get him involved in a positive manner. The sophomore big man has had much more success as a starter this season in part due to playing his more natural power forward position and in part due to playing more alongside James.

Points in the Paint

The Lakers’ offense lives in the opponents’ painted areas. They currently sit at second in the NBA with 64 points in the paint per game. That’s 52.3 percent of their total points. The Wolves are in the bottom third of the league at allowing points in the paint (so are the Lakers) with no true rim protectors on the roster. Guys like LeBron, Hart, Ingram and Kuzma should all be able to have success getting to the rim both in transition and in the half-court with a potential added bonus of getting Karl-Anthony Towns in foul trouble.

LeBron vs. Jimmy

The two stars in the game may not always be matched against each other given James starting in the frontcourt. But there will be instances where the two former Eastern Conference foes go one-on-one. Butler’s public displeasure with the Wolves has been the story of the young season and some reports indicate that he has no plans on teaming up with LeBron in LA. Regardless, these are two of the most competitive and talented players in the league and it should be a phenomenal matchup for both.

Lakers at Wolves will be played at 5:00 PM PST on Monday and will air on NBA TV and Spectrum SportsNet.

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