Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  January 30, 2009

NBA 2008 - Lakers Beat Timberwolves 98-86

Records: Lakers 35-9 (1st in the West) T-Wolves 16-28 (10th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 113.7 (1st in league) T-Wolves 106.0 (21st in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.7 (4th in league) T-Wolves 109.4 (24th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
T-Wolves Randy Foye, Sebasian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, Al Jefferson

Biting The Hand That Feeds Me: Henry Abbott is wrong.

In his Friday Bullets today, Henry called Bynum’s flagrant foul on Wallace a dirty play and said he comments should have been more remorseful. First, we shouldn’t judge on one stand-alone comment (I’m glad the league saw my side and I didn’t get suspended.”). The fact that Bynum went over to the Bobcats locker room after the game, apologized to Larry Brown and asked to get in touch with Wallace is the sign of a guy who handled this the right way. One sentence in an interview is not a good way to judge, because anyone involved in those interviews knows how one line can be pulled out of context.

Second, it was not a dirty play. He came late and tried to foul to stop a lay-up. That play happens in every NBA game, six times in any game Wade is involved in. But watch it and it is clear Bynum did not intend to injure Wallace, he turns sideways. Henry, as someone with children, understands the difference between punishing intent and results. My four-year-old daughter has gotten in more trouble for doing things that did not hurt anyone but that she knows she wasn’t supposed to do than she has for accidents. Intent matters. Bynum, it is clear, did not intend to severely injure Wallace. The NBA understood this.

But, please keep working to give Bynum some sort of undeserved enforcer reputation. All the better for the Lakers.

The T-Wolves Coming In: This is a dangerous team.

The T-Wolves are 7-3 in their last 10 games (same record as the Lakers). And now this is the first game since the All-Star announcement slighted two Wolves, so they will be playing with a chip on their shoulder. First, Al Jefferson should have been on the team over David West, this is a case of people voting for the good guy on the winning team rather than the better guy whose GM has left him stranded. Secondly, and this may the bigger slight, Kevin Love was left off the rookie team. Really, there are nine rookies in the West better than him?

Both of those guys have been playing well of late. Jefferson has been a 22-10 guy in the last 10 games, getting to the line five times on average and shooting a solid 47.6%. He can get his shot in the lane very well against most teams. Love has been 12-10 in 24 minutes coming off the bench in the last 10, shooting 53% and getting to the line 4.5 times per game.

It took Love a little while to adjust to the NBA game, but look at what’s David Thorpe is saying about him now:

What Love has really shown lately is his incredible combination of skill and size, and his feel for the game — he’s often in the perfect position to make a play. He’s now No. 2 in Player Efficiency Rating for rookies and is tops in all three rebounding metrics (offensive, defensive and total rebound rate). That’s impressive, considering his poor start.

The other Minny guy playing well of late is Foye. He is averaging 18 a game and shooting 41% from three in the last 10. You have to go out and respect his shot now. He has picked up the outside shooting missing with Mike Miller out, and Foye has handles, too.

Keys To The Game: What the T-Wolves do is not complex, but you have to be focused to defend it. They simply like to go-inside out — Jefferson on the inside opening up room for shooters and guys who can slash on the wing.

Last meeting, the Andrew Bynum’s length really bothered Jefferson and he needs to do that again. And he needs to bring it — Jefferson is really going to be ticked and really look to prove a point tonight. Bynum has to be physical and use his length to bother Jefferson’s jump hook in the middle of the lane (Bynum blocked one last game).

In the last meeting of these two teams, the T-Wolves hung in because they grabbed a lot of offensive rebounds — 16 for the game, with Jefferson getting five and the strong Craig Smith getting four. The Lakers need to take care of the glass.

Ultimately, the T-Wolves don’t shoot well from the midrange. If you take away Jefferson or the three from Foye and others, they will miss a lot of shots. Then crash the boards and get out and run. Sounds simple, but seven of the last 10 teams they played could not do it well enough.

And if the game is close at the end, remember this from Kelly Dwyer at Ball Don’t Lie:

And if things are close in the end, not that I’m rooting either way, you’d like to hope that the Lakers would be the first team to not act surprised when Minnesota throws out its late-game go-to play; a curl that sees Foye grab the ball on the strong side of the inbound passer, only to turn over his left shoulder, drive hard with the right hand, and go up for a floater off glass. They’ve only been running this, and we’re serious, since 2006. And yet, teams have looked surprised by it ever since.

Where you can watch: 5 pm starts out West on KCAL 9, and the usual spots around the Web.