On Tap: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  March 15, 2006

Record: 26-36, 12th seed in the West, 5.5 games back of the Lakers
Record last 10 games: 3-7
Laker record against Wolves: 0-3
Offensive Rating: 104.6 (25th in the NBA)
Defensive Rating: 106 (12th in the NBA)

Always look on the bright side of life: After a loss like last night, then having to play a back-to-back against a team we have yet to beat this season, we can all use a pick-me-up. So today’s preview is all about optimism.

The Lakers odds of making the playoffs are 93.88%:
Seriously. Over at the stats-friendly APBRmetrics message board, a poster called 94by50 pulled a trick out of the old Baseball Prospectus bag and calculated the odds of teams to make the playoffs based on performance up to that point in the season compared to the upcoming schedule. (For those that haven’t seen it, BP starts doing this a couple weeks into the season, which is way to early but fairly amusing, but by the end of the season it’s pretty accurate. If you want to know the math, follow the link above.)

The bottom line is the West shakes out like this:

Team, expected record, playoff chance %
1. Spurs, 62.68-19.32, 100.00
2. Mavericks, 62.08-19.92, 100.00
3. Suns, 56.81-25.19, 100.00
4. Grizzlies, 46.76-35.24, 99.59
5. Clippers, 46.72-35.28, 99.56
6. Nuggets, 44.85-37.15, 96.89
7. Lakers, 44.11-37.89, 93.88
8. Kings, 41.25-40.75, 59.61
9. Hornets, 39.95-42.05, 31.48
10. Jazz, 38.03-43.97, 8.83
11. Rockets, 37.97-44.03, 8.59
12. Wolves, 35.62-46.38, 1.12
13. Warriors, 34.79-47.21, 0.46
14. Sonics, 30.93-51.07, 0.00
15. Blazers, 24.24-57.76, 0.00

Now, that list is a couple weeks old and doesn’t count for the Nuggets getting the third seed for winning their division (something that needs to be changed, by the way). Also, while it shows the Kings finishing behind the Lakers, that is because the math is based on how the Kings have played all season long, not since Artest arrived. I think they get the six seed, personally, then probably beat Denver in the first round.

The two teams the Lakers need to be concerned with are Utah and the Hornets. John asked in the comments why I don’t fear Utah, it’s because they have the toughest schedule coming in and they are actually more inconsistent than the Lakers. As of today they are two games back of LA and with their schedule and play I just don’t see them making a run.

The Hornets are fading, 2-8 in their last 10. Their defense has been slightly better than the Lakers this season, but the Lakers can overcome that some nights with a powerful offense (8th best in the league — thank you Kobe). The Hornets have little to no O. So, while things don’t look great I can see the Lakers getting the eighth seed with 43-44 wins. And just making the playoffs was a good goal for this season.

Aaron McKie is back: He was suited up last night but did not play. Not sure how much he can give down the stretch, but good to see him back and at least getting a shot in practice.

Trying to Keep it positive: Sasha can’t keep playing as poorly as he has lately long, can he? He’s due to turn it around. Good shooting game from Smush last night.

His absence shows just how much the Lakers miss D. George’s energy and defense off the bench. And just how thin that bench is. Odom played a great first quarter.

Who are these guys? This T-Wolves team is not the same one the Lakers lost to three times this season, all before 2006. Gone is Wally Szczerbiak (we’ll see him next week in Boston), which is good because he was a match up problem for the Lakers.

In the last 10 games, Kevin Garnett has continued to put up MVP-like numbers but he has less of a supporting cast than Kobe. Ricky Davis has been average since coming over (a PER of 14.2, the league average is 15) and he has been the second best player on the squad. Basically the same concepts can be applied to Marcus Banks, who started off hot in Minnesota but has slowed some of late.

Key’s to a Laker win: This is a gut-check game, short handed on the road in a back-to-back. Kobe needs to lead from the outset and, most importantly, the Lakers need to play hard at the defensive end — outside of Garnett this is a team the Lakers can stop.

Like every night, how much the Lakers are focused and work on the defensive end is really the key. Defense in the NBA is as much about effort as anything — guys aren’t at this level if they are inept, but you have to at least slow their efficiency. Do that tonight and the Lakers can win. If not, hello .500.

Kurt

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12 responses to On Tap: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. While wondering the purpose of John R.’s posts I realized I would rather have the Lakers get the 8th seed instead of the 7th. We cannot match up tempo wise with the Suns, (see Seattle game), and we have taken 2 out of 3 from the Mavs and played the (injured)Spurs pretty even in every game. I dont want them to lose, but we are not getting the 6th seed and we should play to end up in the 8th spot

  2. John R., thanks for that link, didn’t know anyone was keeping that live on the web.

    Kwame a., I have been thinking the Lakers are, if not the six seed, best served as the eighth seed with Dallas on top. We’ve played the Spurs well but I think we match up with Dallas fairly well.

  3. Ya know, I wrote a long rant on purpose, but out of respect for calls for optimism I’m going to put it off.

    Myopia is a beautiful thing.

  4. Pct chance of landing in the 6/7/8 seed:

    6 Seed: 7.4%
    7 Seed: 50.9%
    8 Seed: 33.5%

    http://www.coolstandings.com/basketball/playoff_picture.asp

  5. “A cynic is not merely one who reads bitter lessons from the past, he is one who is prematurely disappointed in the future.”

  6. #1 Cynic(n) – someone who is critical of the motives of others

    #2 Realist(n) – a person who accepts the world as it literally is and deals with it accordingly

    kwame a, he just called you a cynic for questioning my motives/purpose and I think it was to imply something negative about you! Are you going to take that? Why does Raider, errrrrrrrrrrrr Laker Nation always have to make things personal? Lets keep it friendly guys.

  7. Nothing personal at all, I really enjoy the dialouge on this board (props Kurt). I just get so discouraged when I see posts negating any positive attributes exhibited by the team the site is dedicated to. No raider nation, no worries, just hoping the Lakers beat Minnesota

  8. notreallyimportant March 15, 2006 at 6:42 pm

    Since Kobe seems to to hate the Mavs uniforms (whenever he sees a bunch of them together he goes off), I think we should definitley root to meet them in the 1-8 series.

  9. Thanks Kurt, glad to be over at MVN, it’s a good network. Let’s hope the Lakers can finally get one against the Wolves.

  10. What a god-awful win, I’ll take it though. I really thought this was going to be the game where Kobe passes up the game winner to an open LO (who was under the basket) or Smush (at the top of the key) but you can’t teach an (27 year) old dog new tricks…

    What’s LO’s season high? If it’s no more than 30 than I have a long rant coming..

  11. Hopefully, the dominance that LO showed in the second quarter yesterday is a sign of his growing comfort within the system. I just wish that it wasn’t pre-determined who gets to dominate the offense in particular parts of the game, (LO gets the first half, Kobe gets the second) seeing as how this offense is predicated on taking what the defense gives you. The offense will become even more potent when they truly have a two pronged attack.

    LO hasn’t scored 30 this year, looks like 25 is his high, but he is above his career stats in most categories (rebounds, shooting %, 3 shooting %, assists) and has scored 20 or more in 4 games this month.