Game Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  November 9, 2007

Records: Lakers 2-2; Minnesota 0-3
Offensive ratings: Lakers 110.8; T-Wolves 105
Defensive ratings: Lakers 108.6; T-Wolves 114.5
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf, Chris Mihm
Minnesota: Sebastian Telfair, Rashad McCants, Ryan Gomes, Greg Buckner, Al Jefferson

Lakers Notes: Lamar Odom returns tonight and will start, moving Luke Walton to a second unit that can really move the ball around (Walton, Jordan Farmar and Andrew Bynum are all good passers). It’s great to have Odom back at his natural three spot, I have high hopes for what this will mean. But not tonight. Expect some limited minutes and some rust from Odom, and it may throw a kink or two in the offense at points tonight. Still his presence is welcome and needed.

Mo Evans is not expected to play, and Kwame is not likely either. Kwame is a particular loss tonight against a team where they could have used him along the front line, he is the strongest Laker post defender. His loss puts a lot of pressure on Mihm tonight, who was rusty but passable in his start the other night. Bynum is going to have to step up as well.

One other not that Bill Dwyre brought up in his Luke Walton profile today I forgot to mention — the play at the end of the first half of the New Orleans game, a sign to me that this Lakers team may have a little something special going on. If you remember, Kobe sank two free throws with nine seconds left to tie the game at 55. The Hornets come down and Chris Paul got into the lane, posts up and then hits a little fadeaway to make it 57-55 with just under two seconds left. Usual NBA protocol here is for someone to give the ball to Kobe or Fisher to try the three-quarter court heave. But as the ball goes through the net Turiaf turns and starts running up court, Walton grabs the ball to make the inbounds pass, sees the hustling Turiaf and does his best Kevin Love imitation and throws it long, hitting Turiaf in stride. Truiaf beats his guy for a lay-up and a 57-57 game at half. Maybe it didn’t matter in end this time, but this is the kind of little thing that wins games.

The Timberwolves Coming In: They knew it was going to be like this — a total rebuild is ugly for a couple years. But at least Minnesota finally decided to go with the total rebuild rather than the horrible “build around KG on the fly” thing they had been doing with no success with the past couple of years.

This year’s team isn’t as bad as some predicted. They have a rock-solid center in Al Jefferson, an old-school beast on the block. If he plays 40 minutes you can expect 21 and 14. But Randy Foye — who I expect to have a break out year — is out indefinitely. Sebastian Telfair is getting his shot, we’ll see over the course of the year what he really can be — nearly 30% of his possessions end in an assist, but he is shooting just 31% on the year. We’re also learning about the athletic but out of control Gerald Green. Ryan Gomes is a player I like, although in an ideal world he is a guy coming off the bench for some scoring spark. And note to Ronny Turiaf and Odom — Buckner has a nice range and is shooting 59.4% (eFG%) and 37% form three this season, Don’t ignore him.

The T-Wolves have caught teams off guard early — they have had first-quarter double-digit leads in all three games. This is a team that has hung in games until about halfway through the fourth quarters, when other teams have found a gear the Wolves have yet to locate. This season is going to be a lot of that for them.

Note That Would Interest Only Peter King: Best break down of what Ronny Turiaf means to the league I have seen is up at Free Darko (great work Carter).

Keys To The Game: Last year the Lakers didn’t seemed focused for games like this, but good teams beat the teams they should and this is one the Lakers should win.

T-Wolves coach said Marco Jaric is going to start on Kobe, so that should mean a big night for #24. Look for Corey Brewer and Gerald Green — both athletic guys but a little young for this task — to get their chances as well. This is a game Kobe should be able to get his when he wants it, and last season he dropped 40 and 50 on Minny.

Last year at Staples I had great seats for Al Jefferson pushing Andrew Bynum around the paint like he was Chuck Nevit. I’m curious to see what the more fit Bynum can do, but bottom line is the Lakers deep front line is going to have to work to not let Jefferson control the paint.

This is also a game where the Lakers depth should prove a big advantage — Walton, Farmar, Radmanovic and Bynum will find this is not Houston or Utah in terms of second units. They can take over this game and give the Lakers a big lead. And part of the reason for the late fades by Minnesota is that the starters don’t get a lot of rest if things get out of control.

Tonight’s Game: Where Odom Happens: Odom being back is the story, but I’m not sure he’ll be the key at the end. Look for the T-Wolves to hang in their for a while — maybe into the third quarter. This is a team that will hustle. But look for the Lakers bench to start a third quarter run, Kobe to torch whoever tries to cover him and the Lakers to pull away comfortably late.

Where you can watch: Game time is 7:30 p.m. (Pacific). No national broadcast (ESPN gives you the Cavs and Kings) and in LA it is Fox Sports. Because of the late starts, I haven’t “watched” a game online yet, but whose system is better this year, ESPN or NBA.com?

Kurt

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33 responses to Game Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. The Lakers better come out smelling blood. Winning games like these not only builds confidence, but helps rhythm, and makes banging against the big boys easier, and more likely to come out on top.

    As for games online, can you actually watch them on NBA.com? I have watched a few on ESPN, and they work well, both live, or watching later. Is NBA.com just a cast of the box score, or are you able to view the action? I am without cable, and have been enjoying the ability to watch some on my computer so far.

  2. I am very curious about the bynum/jefferson match up. It is a good indicator of how far along bynum has come.

    As for Odom, he will be a turnover machine tonight and I expect some outside misses. I see 14/9/4 with 4-5 turnovers in about 28-32 minutes of action.

  3. Im looking forward to seing Bynum matched up with Jefferson. Al was one of the main reasons McHale traded with the Celtics and he felt Jefferson had more upside then Bynum.

    I also want to see how Phil will use Lamar from the SF position. Hopefully its from the low post and not as much on the perimiter.

  4. I too am looking forward to the Jefferson Bynum match up. I think Jefferson is the best young low post player (well behind Howard but he is younger) in the league. He will be an all-star for years to come in the league. This will be a good test to see if Bynum can guard a strong post player. The only other low post player he has played this year has been Yao. He didn’t do terrible against him. Yao is just unstoppable with that sweet 10 ft turnaround (best I have ever seen from a big man).

    This is a good game for Odom to come back in. He should be able to work out some of the rust. The Lakers are going to need him for the Texas two-step later this week. That is just brutal, than throw in Detroit with just one day off. Next week should be a good test for the Lakers.

  5. I’ll being looking for the upcoming:
    “Lakers I Miss: Chuck Nevitt” post.

    “The Human Victory Cigar” even has a ring from the “84-“85 team…

  6. Hopefully Phil uses Lamar more in the post against smaller Small Forwards and less on the perimiter.

    Id also like to see Javaris Crittenton get more playing time at shooting guard backing up Kobe. He’s 6-5 and you can play both him and Farmar together. I dont understand Phil’s favoritism of Mo Evans and Sasha.

  7. as a follow up question I asked last week, and now have the answer, I can get both FSW and KCLA in HD on Charter in Glendale, it’s just a matter of scrolling in the higher numbers, KCAL is full time, but the FSW only comes on air for the Lakers games at this time.
    my thoughts for tonights game-
    do not let us and play overconfidently, or come down to the level of the opponent.
    this is a “must win” game, go to Texas with a W under your belt, which is way better that going there with a 2 game losing streak. win tonight and we’re 3-1, so the worst you can come out of the Texas 2 stop is 3-3…
    win tonight, being 3-1, get a split in texas, which is doable, and come away 4-2…not a bad start this far into a rough schedule opening for the season.
    just win, that simple.

  8. oops, my bad, i forgot that we’re 2-2 now…
    well, it’s still a must win.

  9. 6. I like Critt as Kobe’s backup too, at least while Mo Evans is out. Sasha is showing improvement this year, but it’s clear he’s never going to be anything special. I’d rather see Phil use those minutes to further Critt’s development, even if Sasha might give us a little bit more in the short term (emphasis on little).

  10. Ryan O,
    “even if Sasha might give us a little bit more in the short term ”

    The problem is that the Lakers are probably a bubble team for the playoffs; if they want to make the playoffs they don’t have the luxury of throwing away any games to further the development of young players. In the long term it is probably the smart thing to do, but you have to be willing to miss the postseason.

  11. 10- I don’t think it will be Sasha who pushes the Lakers into the playoffs. If it is then we are in for a long season.

  12. GEORGE HOW DO I WATCH THE GAMES ON ESPN? ANYBODY KNOWS?

  13. Tony B,
    Sasha won’t push the team into the playoffs, but right now he is better than Crit, and probably will be for the balance of the year. And the Lakers don’t have enough margin for error to be able to spend those “Sasha minutes” on Crit’s development.

  14. I always figured Mihm would be the starting center for the season. Seems to be that not going with Kwame doesn’t mean you lose much, unless you really need some interior one on one defense.

    You can’t count on Kwame, but you can hope he’ll contribute a little here and there.

    If we lose tonight, man.

  15. Crit needs more time. I thought he got schooled a couple of times during the NO game, although defense is the most difficult skill to pickup. I luv Crit’s energy, but I don’t like him getting too cocky with the ball.

    I hate to say it, but Sasha is the better choice for now.
    We are really going to miss Kwame tonight. Good Luck !

  16. 13, 15- Like I said, if the forth guard off the bench has enough impact on the Lakers margin of error to make the playoffs then this will be a very frustrating season. Play Java it will payoff.

  17. Mike in the Mountain West November 9, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    I’ll go out on a limb and say there is a good chance Sasha ups his game to decent back-up level. In his limitied minutes so far he’s shown some sparks. He’s gotten to the line 3 times in three games, which may not seem like much until you realize he only went to the line twice the whole month of November. He’s clearly stronger and is very motivated since this is a contract year for him. He’s also seems to be shooting with more confidence hitting 50% of his shots including three pointers.

    Now don’t misinterpret me I’m not saying he’s going to be great but I think he has a fair chance at beating Evans for that fourth guard spot. He’s outplayed him up to this point the question is if he can sustain it.

  18. Mike in the Mountain West November 9, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    16. I’d like to see Javaris sent down to the D-Fenders for a few months. He’ll get a lot more time there and we can bring him up if we need to. I think it will be better for his development than getting 10 – 15 minutes off the bench with the Lakers.

  19. I keep forgetting about the D-Fenders. I better get use to the minor league idea. I would still like to see Java play against the best. The kid has “IT”.

  20. Sorry I was so far off on the Minny starting 5, I just used the ones from last game.

  21. Two interesting stats from tonight’s game:

    Bynum and Mihm combined for 20 rebs and 20 points on 9-17 shooting. I’ll take that production from the center position any day.

    Kobe’s +/- was +9. Odem’s? +22.

    It’s nice to have Lamar back, isn’t it?

  22. LO with a double double on his first game back? +22??? Are you kidding me??? LO playing 36 mins in his first game back? That is just plain crazy.

    I can do it all!!!!

  23. Mike in the Mountain West November 10, 2007 at 12:17 am

    A solid win against a team we favored to be beat. So far I’m not seeing some of the same problems we had last year against weak teams.

  24. Lamar is leaner, and quicker. It looked good, he was moving like he did in his Clipper days. Andrew will be one of the best rebounders in the leauge within the next 2 years, he grabs everything. Luke got the 4th quarter minutes over Rony, I didn’t like that, I think Rony balances the floor better. Fish, Kobe and Walton, our three supposed best ball-handlers/passers are FORCING way too many passes. Our defense has not been too bad, teams arent shooting a high percentage, they are scoring on points off turnovers, and it will be costly if we don’t stop that.

  25. One of the best lines on the box score that I saw was this:

    Brian Cook, PF DNP COACH’S DECISION

    I like looking at the balance the team has but I’m concerned about the turnovers. 18 TO for the entire game is not going to cut it. If this happened against an upper-tier team we would have been destroyed. Hopefully PJ addresses this.

    Another good note, the team outrebounded the opposition once again, 51-44.

  26. You’re a beautiful man, LO. Now keep it going next week.

  27. When their frontline is as effective as it was against the Wolves, the Lakers are a tough match up for most teams. The only concern I had with our performance was perimeter defense-it seemed that Telfair was getting to the basket at will. After Chris Paul torched us a couple of nights before I was expecting a better effort in this area.

  28. @ 25) That seriously made me laugh. A lot. And it’s completely true.

    Is it just me or was that the quietest 24 and 15 ever from Al tonight. I don’t know what it was, but I feel like I didn’t notice anything that any T’wolve did all game. This felt like the first single-digit blowout I’ve seen (for the long stretches it was under 10).

    Also was pretty surprised by how good Lamar looked in his first game back. Kobe’s quotes about how great Lamar looked was and how good our passing has been were his first postgame quotes that sounded to me like he’s really buying into the team. Not the typically guarded, just doing my thing, type stuff.

    All in all, pretty quality win.

  29. Missed the game up until the end of the 4th, but the box scores looked good. I was pleased to see Mihm not only get crunch time minutes, but put up a solid stat line with a double double. I think he is a key to our depth as the season progresses, especially since Kwame has yet to prove he can be a consistent force. From the box score, Bynum also looked solid, not stellar, but reliable. Glad to see the Lakers pull out a W against a team like this, but, oh, about 40 more games to go against this caliber of teams. If we win about 70% of them, and hang with the better teams, I expect the Lakers to be seeded higher up than most have expected.

    Great to see Lamar back in action, as his stat line pleased me for his first game of, his hopefully all-star, season.

    QUIKWUOR: sorry for responding late, but to see if you are able to watch ESPN games on the internet, visit the following URL. It depends on your internet provider. I have ATT, and am able to watch them on ESPN 360, well, at least the ones they air as part of their national broadcast contract. But, it gives me extra reason to look forward to Wednesdays and Fridays, now that I am in a residence without cable. LAKERS!!!!

    http://sports.espn.go.com/broadband/espn360/index

  30. Sorry for responding back to back, but another thing caught my attention. I think Javaris will get some extensive play with the D-Fenders. Phil has probably just seeing how he does so far. I expect for him to probably receive some more minutes a the 2 spot as the season progresses. But as for the PJ favoritism towards Evans, it is likely due to his ability to play efficient defense, and his dependable skill from midrange.

    While Mo is not an explosive player, he does possess adequate range on his jumper, and will not disrupt the flow of offense. Sasha has also likely been gaining minutes over Javaris simply because Jackson does not favor rookies. Sasha not only had a strong training camp, but also has a few years in the league under his belt, which for whatever reason, makes Phil think of him more often. In the long run, Javaris will likely be the better player, with a better career. Yet, for now, it is not likely with PJ at the helm that Crittenton will steal too much of Mo’s and Sasha’s minutes. Especially since the Lakers are striving for consistent success.

  31. I’d like to reiterate my stand on “developing players” on a particular team. you only have so much playing time to distribute to the young players. and you’ll need to give them consistent minutes (be it 8 or 1

  32. ….(be it 8 or 10 or 12 minutes) and you’ll have to give them definitive roles in order for them to gain confidence. the lakers have too many “developing players” on their roster, and keeping them all will only hurt than help them both short and long term. those players won’t gain confidence and won’t improve as fast. from what i see in the rotations right now, they must give consistent 10-12 mins to either sasha or jcritt, same goes for cook/walton/radman, one of them has to go or stay in the dog house. My take on this is trade sasha and cook for veterans or “position players” that have more playoff experience than them. they can also be traded for future considerations. they’ve been playing for 4-5 years and they will never be more than a “one trick pony”. include Kwame there and get veterans in the mold of PJ Brown or kurt thomas. I think the team just needs some veteran savvy on some occassions to be able to get to the next level. get a 10+ yr vet to be the third center (mutumbo or someone similar), a david wesley or bob sura or brent barry type to replace sasha. a matt bonner or croshere to replace cook. they’d be great help in spots and will help a lot with the young guys

  33. I agree with Carter, while it never felt like a blowout, it also never felt like we were going to blow the lead. this is why this years squad is better than last years squad. Last year, I would have been (justifiably) worried, and we lost way too many games last year against teams of similar quality. I hope this is a sign of the season to come, that this years squad, with this depth and hustle guys like Ronnie, Fish, Farmar, and of course Kobe and Lamar, well, that they take care of business against teams at this level.
    Andrew continues to impress…
    just imagine if his upside could be like a Dwight Howard…
    we could easlity have a 3 headed monster of Kobe, Lamar and Andrew, surrounded by this squad and we’re serious contenders. let’s hope Andrew plays at this level or continues to improve over the season. it’s very encouraging to see him and KB play a 2 man game, ‘drew is looking for the ball now, and getting it in great position where all he has to do is reach up and slam it through. he’s getting some boards too, all in all I’m quite impressed. (glad we didn’t trade him).