Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves preview

The Lakers look to avenge last month's loss to Minnesota with a road win over the Timberwolves on Sunday

The Lakers (7-16) lost a game they expected to win in late November against the Minnesota Timberwolves, 120-119, at Staples Center.

Instead, Zach LaVine scored a career-high 28 points off the bench, Mo Williams added 25 and Thaddeus Young 22, as the only team lower than the Lakers in the Western Conference standings got the upset.

The Wolves played without Kevin Martin (wrist), Nikola Pekovic (ankle), Ricky Rubio (ankle) and Ronny Turiaf (hip). The same players are out Sunday, and Williams has recently been sidelined with back spasms.

The Lakers are still down Xavier Henry (Achilles), Ryan Kelly (hamstring), Steve Nash (back) and Julius Randle (leg).

Key matchup

Kobe Bryant starts the night just eight points behind Michael Jordan (32,292) on the NBA's all-time career scoring list.

He should pass that milestone relatively easily against in Minnesota.

If Williams is unable to start, the Wolves will presumably start Corey Brewer and LaVine.

Brewer is a solid defender, but he's not quite strong enough to deal with Bryant. LaVine is a talented rookie, but he's raw defensively.

The Lakers can't let LaVine put up another career night. In November, the UCLA product hit 11 of 14 shots.

Bryant has played point guard for the Lakers down the stretch of recent games. That may be a favorable match-up against LaVine and the Wolves.

Minnesota may choose to put rookie Andrew Wiggins against Bryant, regardless of what position the Lakers All-Star lines up in offensively. Wiggins is young, but he enters the league with strong defensive talent and instincts.

X-factor

Thaddeus Young was a difficult cover for the Lakers at Staples Center. Young hit eight of 13 shots. Anthony Bennett was also solid off the bench, with 11 points on five of eight shooting.

Center Gorgui Dieng scored only four points, but he dished eight assists.

The Lakers just didn't play well defensively in their last meeting against the Wolves. If Young and Bennett score at will Sunday, the game may have a similar outcome.

Ed Davis, Jordan Hill, Robert Sacre and Carlos Boozer all need to make an impact defensively inside.

Boozer, who was recently demoted to the bench, has improved his level of play over the Lakers' two-game winning streak.

The Lakers also need another big performance from Nick Young, who hit the game winner Friday night over the San Antonio Spurs.

Outlook

The Lakers have won two straight, including a stunner in San Antonio.

They should be able to lock in their first three-game win streak of the year with a victory in Minnesota.

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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