On Tap: The Minnesota Timberwolves

 —  January 19, 2005

Here’s one reason Laker fans can be optimistic heading into tonight: The fivesome that put on the 24-7 spurt that pushed the Lakers past the T-Wolves a couple weeks ago was Atkins, Butler, Jones, Cook and Mihm. No Kobe needed.

(Look at the 82games breakout of a the Lakers best five-man squads and that group ranks second in +/- thanks to that performance. So, of course, Rudy T. has not played that grouping together again since.)

Three games into the “Kobe, we don’t need no stinkin’ Kobe” part of the season, tonight it is Rudy T.’s turn to make a move on the chess board. After Kobe went down, the Lakers started to run the offense through Odom in the post, and that got them two wins (I’m counting Cleveland). Then Utah, made adjustments — Matt Harpring played physical defense on Odom and, when he got the ball and tried to spin toward the middle, the double team came quick.

So what’s Rudy T. to do? Allow me to make a couple of suggestions. First, if a bigger body is going to play Lamar, get him the ball a little farther from the basket, allow him to face up and then beat the guy with his speed. Second, have players cutting into the space created when the double-team comes. We’ll see what actually happens.

As for the T-Wolves, we covered them a couple weeks ago and little has changed (they’ve gone 3-8 in their last 11). In brief — the offense is still good but Latrell Sprewell has fallen off considerably. Their defense, however, sucks.

Tonight the Wolves will be without the services of Sam Cassell, who is out with a bad hamstring. That’s no big boost for the Lakers because Troy Hudson takes his place at the point, and he scored 20 in the last meeting. Also, Mark Madsen — still heir to Gene Gene the Dancing Machine — is on the IR and will miss the game.

The Lakers were inconsistent when they had Kobe in the lineup and some things have not changed with him out. I really have no idea what to expect tonight.