Lakers’ latest struggles were the talk of the Timberwolves

Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns (32) celebrates with teammates Patrick Beverley and D'Angelo Russell.
Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns celebrates with teammates Patrick Beverley and D’Angelo Russell during the second half of their win over the Lakers on Wednesday.
(Andy Clayton-King / Associated Press)

Russell Westbrook wore a sweater, LeBron James had a coat and Wayne Ellington had a hat.

If the Lakers were going to be this cold, at least they were dressed for it.

If it hadn’t happened twice in the previous three days, the Lakers’ struggles putting the ball in the basket would be too outrageous to understand. Yet here they were again, opening the game against Minnesota missing three-point shot after three-point shot.

In the end against the Timberwolves, they missed 10 in a row in the first quarter — cruelly a whistle canceling Talen Horton-Tucker’s last-second corner prayer that went in. During their last three games, the Lakers are one of 33 from three-point range in the first quarter.


“Teams are daring us to shoot the ball from outside and we’re not making them,” James said flatly.

The misses have been piling up for the Lakers in March, teams wisely packing the paint and letting the Lakers launch. Before Wednesday’s 124-104 loss to the Timberwolves, the Lakers attempted 40 or more threes in a game 17 times this season. They took 45 against Minnesota.

The Lakers fell on the road to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 124-104, on Wednesday in Minneapolis.

March 16, 2022

The Lakers lost 13 of those games — including five times in the previous 11 days.

“Just keep shooting,” Westbrook said. “Simple as that.”

But should they?

Since the All-Star break, Westbrook is shooting 11.1% from three-point range. He’s not alone — Talen Horton-Tucker is at 25.9% and Austin Reaves is at 29.7%. All three are taking at least two attempts per game.

The misses have been crippling. They’ve allowed teams to open huge leads. As the Lakers try to make their comebacks, a missed three here and a missed three there have been the equivalent to the Lakers pulling the emergency brake on any momentum they’d built.

Coach Frank Vogel said that, according to the Lakers’ stats, the team made only four of 23 “open” three-point shots against the Timberwolves. Minnesota, by contrast, converted seven of their 11 open threes.

“We’re going to continue to work on shot quality and we’ve got to put the ball in the basket,” Vogel said.

The offensive futility has made the Lakers an easy target, both on the court and psychologically.

Westbrook has been the most frequent target, from opposing arena DJs playing Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” after his shots to the “Westbrick” controversy in San Antonio to mind games from Patrick Beverley on Wednesday, the pesky guard sagging deep in the paint to close the passing lanes and force turnovers.

Clearly unintimidated, the Timberwolves jawed and celebrated in the Lakers’ faces, totally emboldened to do or say whatever because they sensed the Lakers’ inability to stop them.

While James wrote the talk off as “part of the game,” Westbrook’s dismissal was more pointed.


“I honestly pay no mind to it,” Westbrook said. “Maybe the other guys [do]. But they weren’t talking to me. They were talking to individual guys particularly, but the trash-talking doesn’t bother me none. Nobody over there has done anything in this league that would make me pick my eyes up like, ‘Oh, they’re talking mess. Let me respond.’

“No, it’s fine. They’re good. They won the game, happy for them, move onto the next one. And that’s that.”

The Timberwolves were talking to Westbrook. And James. And Malik Monk. . And everyone else in a Lakers jersey. And making some shots would be an easy way to maybe quiet some opponents who are reveling in the Lakers’ failings.

It’s easier said than done. With the Lakers’ confidence likely shaken, they need to play more aggressively and with more swagger. But to gain those things, they first need to play well.

Ellington, who found himself back in the rotation Wednesday, came in and made the first three for the Lakers after the team missed its previous 10. He knows that these problems are complicated.

“I just feel like there’s a rhythm to the game. And we’ve gotten a lot of clean looks, open looks tonight. Unfortunately, it’s kind of contagious,” Ellington said. “Once you see a couple of them come out, you’re like, ‘Man, the next one’s got to go in.’ Start pressing a little bit, start feeling that energy. At the same time, like I said, we’ve been getting some clean looks, some good looks. We’ve got to step up and knock those down.

“… The next game is a new game. I’m confident we’ll get hot in Toronto and make 20 threes.”



When: 4:30 p.m. PDT, Friday

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Update: The Lakers get a chance to avenge a miserable first-half performance Monday in Los Angeles against the Raptors. LeBron James (knee) and Talen Horton-Tucker (ankle) are questionable, the Lakers needing any and all available firepower considering their recent offensive struggles. James is just 56 points from moving past Karl Malone for No. 2 on the NBA’s all-time leading scorer list.