Is it just me, or does it seem like we play these guys every third game? And, as Joel Meyers pointed out on the LA broadcast, how do they luck out and get us in the second game of a back-to-back when they are rested four times this season, two times in two weeks?
The Lakers come in to Minnesota above .500 thanks to one of their best defensive showings of the season in Chicago, holding the Bulls to 43.4% shooting (eFG%) and 2 of 14 from beyond the arc. Sweetney got his, and Hinrich scored but wasnâ€™t much help on defense (and ended up -12), but Chandler (-16) and Deng (-15) were nonfactors. Letâ€™s be fair here, part of Chicago’s trouble was they missed some good looks. Meanwhile, good games for the Lakers from Cook (+12, hit 8 of 11 shots), Sasha (+15) and Lamar Odom (+15). As long as other guys keep knocking down the shots Kobe needs to keep passing when the doubles and triples come.
It’s a good win but letâ€™s not get too far ahead of ourselves â€” winning four in a row is nice but itâ€™s what good teams do. Teams that win 40% of their games (basically the Lakers last season) win four in a row 87% of the time, .500 teams do it 99.4% of the time. (Those stats come from Basketball on Paper.) What Iâ€™m saying is this is good, but the Lakers need to keep building in this and not have this as the seasonâ€™s highpoint.
Building anything has not been easy for the Lakers in the second game of back-to-backs, it certainly wasnâ€™t the last time these two met. It was those tired legs that seemed to kill the Lakers, they had a double-digit lead through the third quarter but watched it slip away when Minnesota shot 81% in the fourth quarter, led by Wally Szczerbiak and Troy Hudson going 4 of 5 from beyond the arc when the Lakers were slow to rotate on them (plus Garnett was Garnett). The Lakers are not the only team to fall victim to this, the T-Wolves needed a big fourth quarter comeback the other night to beat Portland.
It was the subs that did well against Minnesota last time, the five on the floor when the Lakers took over in the second quarter were Laron Profit, Luke Walton, Sasha, Chris Mihm and Lamar Odom (Kobe subbed out Odom during the 22-9 stretch where the Lakers took control). The second night of a back-to-back, the subs need to step up again.
The T-Wolves have won four straight and are doing it on both sides of the ball with good offense (ranked 10th in the league in efficiency) and defense (4th in the league). Like the Lakers, they seem to be coming together in a way many people thought they couldnâ€™t. Which should make this an interesting game.