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Lakers' James aiming to continue mastery over Timberwolves

It does not matter what team LeBron James is on, games against the Minnesota Timberwolves often go well for the superstar.

Of course these days, the Timberwolves hold other concerns along with stopping James.

On Monday, the Timberwolves will make another attempt at containing James when they host the Los Angeles Lakers.

James is 23-6 in 29 games against Minnesota and is averaging 26.5 points with 11 30-point games.

He lost four of the first five meetings with the Timberwolves from Nov. 21, 2003 to Nov. 26, 2005. Since then he is 22-2 in the last 24 meetings and James has lost once in Minnesota in that span.

The Wolves beat James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-99 at home on Jan. 8 when the superstar was held to 10 points but nearly a month later, James scored 37 points and hit the buzzer-beater over Jimmy Butler to hand Minnesota a 140-139 win, doing so after blocking Butler's shot.

Nearly nine months later, James is in the Western Conference and Butler is hoping to get traded. Butler asked for a trade in September and last week the Houston Rockets reportedly offered four first-round picks for him.

Butler played through an illness and finished with four points on 2 of 11 shooting as Minnesota was handed a 125-95 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. In their worst loss under coach Tom Thibodeau, Minnesota missed its first 11 shots, shot 32.1 percent and did not score for the first 4:41.

A day later, Thibodeau seemed to acknowledge the trade rumors may becoming a distraction as did forward Taj Gibson.

"You know distractions happen all the time in every industry," Thibodeau said to reporters. "So when you lose focus you're not going to perform up to your potential. We have to guard against that. I think human nature says you have to guard against it if you study how this league works."

"It was a lot of different things going on, lot of different body parts moving around," Gibson added. "It was a funky day."

The Wolves played without Andrew Wiggins the second straight and he is questionable with a bruised right quadriceps, meaning rookie Josh Okogie would likely start in his place.

They are still waiting for Karl-Anthony Towns to get rolling as their forward is shooting 42.9 percent after getting 16 points Friday.

Meanwhile, the Lakers are 2-4 after struggling to stop DeMar DeRozan in a 110-106 loss at San Antonio on Saturday. James scored a season-high 35 points but the Lakers shot 40.5 percent in the second half and scored 18 points in the fourth quarter.

"We got away from who we were halfway through the third," Lakers coach Luke Walton said. "We stopped pushing the ball. We got stagnant. They made some great plays. We missed some shots. But we just got away from what we've done really well so far this season."

Walton is correct. With 2:32 left, Los Angeles held an 88-77 lead but the rest of the way, it was outscored 33-18 by going 6-for-24 from the floor.

The Lakers played without Brandon Ingram, who completed his four-game suspension for his role in the fight with Chris Paul on Oct. 20.

Ingram could return to the starting lineup after Kyle Kuzma averaged 22.7 points in his absence.

However, Lonzo Ball did not return to the bench after Rajon Rondo returned from his three-game suspension. Ball averaged 12.6 while starting for Rondo but was held to six points.

Overall, the Lakers are still trying to figure out the right mix. Their opening night lineup of James, Rondo, Ingram, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and JaVale McGee has appeared together for just 26 minutes so far.

"I think it's growing," James said. "This is a process for us, we're going to continue to grow. We're going to continue to get better and use these experiences for the better."

Minnesota swept the season series last season, winning the four games by an average of 14.5 points. The Wolves also are 7-3 in their last 10 games against the Lakers.

Updated October 29, 2018

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