Here is what you need to know before the Lakers host the Minnesota Timberwolves.
1) Rondo’s return could be imminent
The Lakers played their previous game without any of their three elite passers — LeBron James, Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo — who all missed Sunday’s loss due to injuries.
But L.A. could get one of them back against Minnesota, as Rondo is questionable to return from a monthlong absence due to right ring finger surgery.
It’s been a frustrating year of health for Rondo, who has only played in 14 of the Lakers’ 48 games. Mostly coming off the bench, he has been productive organizing his team’s offense, averaging 8.4 points and 6.7 assists while shooting 45.0 percent from the field.
Expect Rondo to have even more playmaking opportunities with Ball and James both out of action. The Lakers will lean heavily on him over the next 4-6 weeks — the recovery time for Lonzo’s left ankle sprain.
Rajon Rondo gave the Warriors’ switching defense fits by finding the matchups he wanted and attacking in isolation. pic.twitter.com/Iso8jdFxIY
— Joey Ramirez (@JoeyARamirez) December 26, 2018
2) The big man’s had a big stretch
Ivica Zubac has been bulldozing opposing defenses lately. Over his last three games, the big man has come off the bench and averaged 20.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in only 23.4 minutes.
Efficiency has been Zubac’s calling card during this span, as he has shot a whopping 82.1 percent from the field (23-of-28) thanks to his ability to find space in the defense on cuts and pick-and-rolls.
His physical game has also drawn him a bunch of fouls, leading to opportunities for the 7-footer to show off his silky touch. He has shot 15-of-16 on free throws over his last three games, and 89.6 percent on the season.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) January 18, 2019
3) The new-look Wolves are finding their way
Minnesota started the season with four-time all-star Jimmy Butler and former Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau, but has since parted ways with both.
Now they are led by the league’s youngest coach, 32-year-old Ryan Saunders, who has guided them to a 4-3 record in his start in the interim job.
It certainly helps to have the services of Karl-Anthony Towns, who is averaging 22.5 points and 12.3 rebounds. His inside-outside game has him second among centers in scoring, as he ranks third among all players in post-up points and first at his position in 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Derrick Rose is playing his best basketball in a long time, placing third among bench players in scoring (17.2) thanks to his trademark iso game and newfound perimeter shooting.
Lakers: Rajon Rondo (right ring finger surgery) is questionable. LeBron James (left groin strain) and Lonzo Ball (left ankle sprain) are out. Johnathan Williams is on G League assignment.
Timberwolves: Jeff Teague (left foot soreness) is questionable. Robert Covington (right knee bone bruise) and Tyus Jones (left ankle sprain) are out. C.J. Williams is on G League assignment.
Tip-Off: 7:30 p.m. PT
TV: Spectrum SportsNet in L.A. TNT nationally
Radio: 710 ESPN and 1330 KWKW
Unis: Gold Icon
Location: STAPLES Center — Los Angeles, California
Source: Los Angeles Lakers