Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  February 22, 2009

NBA: JAN 26 Timberwolves at Bucks
Records: Lakers 45-10 (1st in the West) T-Wolves 18-36 (11th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 114.3 (1st in league) T-Wolves 106.4 (20th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.5 (8th in league) T-Wolves 110.4 (25th in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Luke Walton, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
T-Wolves Randy Foye, Sebasian Telfair, Ryan Gomes, Mike Miller, Kevin Love

The Lakers and The Oscars: No, Lamar Odom isn’t going (an odd rumor running around the Internet a couple weeks ago, until somebody bothered to check the Lakers schedule).

But who is the Best Laker in a leading role? Best Foreign Language Laker? Well, the Oscar goes to… Or, it goes to… (Great minds….)

By the way, I’ll be flipping between the Lakers and Oscars, so feel free to comment on both. I just wish the Lakers were as big a lock tonight as Heath Ledger.

Phil Jackson thoughts: There was some talk about Phil and his strategies in the last thread, but I thought Zephid did a great job summing up the argument about Phil just having talented teams (which his coaching job in this second stint with the Lakers should clear up):

Any great coach has to have great players to succeed. Would Jerry Sloan have been around for 20 years if not for Stockton and Malone being there for so many of them? Would Red Auerbach have won any championships if he hadn’t had 7 Hall-of-Famers on his squad? Would Gregg Popovich have won any without TD? Same goes for Riley and Showtime.

A great coach with a bad team will be marginally successful (Larry Brown’s 76ers come to mind), and a great team with a bad coach will underachieve (George Karl and the 90’s Sonics come to mind), but a great coach with a great team will get the most out of them. It doesn’t matter how good Michael Jordan was, he didn’t win anything until Phil Jackson became his coach.

His methods may be unorthodox, but 9 championships speak for themselves. Those Jordan-Bull teams did not win because of the greatness of Michael Jordan, they won because Phil Jackson (and Tex Winter) developed a system that got the most out of ALL their players.

The T-Wolves Coming In: As a team they have been struggling, losing 8 of their last 10 and four in a row. The key reason is are struggling is that they are without Al Jefferson 9torn ACL four games back), and he was the focal point of the offense. Without him this is a team that does not play great defense and can go on long stretches without offense. That’s a bad combination. Also out is Craig Smith, one of the starting forwards.

Then at the trade deadline the Wolves gave up Rashard McCants, he of the nice game and the sulking attitude, to bring in Sheldon Williams, he of the questionable skills but considerable effort. If you don’t think the more skill guy is going to figure it out, give me the guy with the effort every time.

Keys To The Game: If Jefferson was healthy, this could be a challenging game. But without him, and without Smith, the Wolves are very thin up front. So the Lakers should be able to control the paint — the Wolves have nobody who can stop Gasol or keep Odom off the boards. The Lakers need to go inside out on the offense tonight.

Honestly, I have no idea what the Wolves are doing on offense now, but if you look at their game tracks they just go cold for stretches. The Lakers need to be consistent on offense, if they do that they can get some big runs in this game and just pull away.

The focal point of the T-Wolves offense now is Randy Foye, who the Lakers need to focus on (Ariza and Kobe?).

Also, this is a team the Lakers can run on. The second unit could get out and run and be a key to the Lakers pulling away.

Where you can watch: 4 pm starts out West on KCAL 9, and the usual spots around the Web.

Kurt

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76 responses to Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Sorry this is up so late.

  2. Instead of being sorry, I think you should be proud of the fact that this site keeps putting up quality material like this – day after day. Suffice to say, I think we can all accept if a preview is a little “late”=)

    On the game: Just pound the ball inside and we should be fine. Simple as that.

  3. the other Stephen February 22, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    forever will shelden williams be known as the chap who married candace parker.

    give us some kevin mclovin, baby! i want to see that guy play the entire 48 minutes.

  4. Steve Blake just tied the record with 14 assists in the first quarter. Is he playing the Clippers? Why yes he is!

    The Clippers are special this year: No record is safe against them. Do the Lakers play them again?

  5. I predict that this will be the first game of the season where DJ Mbenga gets a significant amount of playing time (including the first half). Let’s hope that in both this game and the next game against the ex-Sonics, DJ gets to play a lot. I think we’ll need some decent minutes from DJ this season to hold onto the best record in the league. I thought Powell tried to do a little too much against the Hornets after his stellar game against the Warriors. Perhaps DJ can be a decent last line of defense for our second unit, permitting the other four players to stay closer to the spot-up shooters.

  6. Anyone have a link for the game?

  7. Grrr…awaiting moderation again…and is Fish not playing tonight?

  8. Dude: Fish is playing.

  9. Yeah, I was thrown off by the Ireland interview with Fish, where he said they were moments before tip-off, and Fish was still in his street clothes.

  10. Do our jerseys look especially purple and gold to anybody?

  11. Just sayin… Is there a reason Kevin Love’s Number is not 69?

    Really?

    You think the NBA might be able to sell some jerseys that say “Wolves” on the front and “LOVE 69″ on the back?

    Just sayin…

  12. So I missed the beginning of the game, due to making dinner for my husband (yes, this makes me question my fan credentials), and when I was done he told me Fisher went down hard, looked to be in pain, and actually messed up a couple of free throws. Now Farmar is in the game instead of Fisher… should I be worried?

  13. 11

    It was a hard fall but Fisher didn’t seem to be affected by it (apart from missing the first FT) for the rest of the quarter.

  14. 13. Mimsy, Fish only missed one, and even though he has not returned to the game, the TV crew hasn’t said anything.

  15. Thanks, Dude. My husband said “messed up” but by his standards, that could mean Fisher got two lucky bounces ;)

    As long as Fish is not injured, I am happy. The announcers would certainly have said something if there was an injury.

  16. Lamar’s first miss cost DJ an assist! LOL

  17. I just saw Fish on the court. He’s fine. :)

  18. And, Fish is back. DJ looks a little sloppy on the offensive end, but OK on defense with one block already and another that didn’t count because of a Laker foul.

  19. A truly, utterly uninspired effort by the Lakers.

  20. I sometimes wish we would not play these sub .500 teams, they always make a game out of it for us.

  21. Luke is playing good ball. Really encourgaing to see him string together this stretch of games. He has really earned his starting spot because he is doing the stuff he is in there for.

  22. 20. Kwame A…have to agree with that. I was busy with various scenarios in the Trade Machine all summer (most involving LO and Luke). I’ve seen the error in my ways. They’ve both really stepped up this month.

  23. the other Stephen February 22, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    mclovin’ with the rim rocka!

  24. I’m not sure what bothers me the most.That we are playing with no effort at all, or that FB&G seems almost dead compared to past games…

  25. Funny, we have 0 offensive rebounds. We are getting outrebounded, of course.

    But at least we seem to be enticing other teams to shoot from the 3 a lot. A quarter of their shots are 3s.

  26. Some defence would be nice…

    When you’re shooting 57 % from the floor, you’d think you’d be up more than by two.

  27. This game is… “Damper than I expected”

  28. a real poor performance so far, sloppy on offence especially in transition and no effort defensivly

  29. he bench’s offense has no flow. Even Powell’s make was a bad possession. He got the ball, didn’t know what to do with it for several seconds, so finally just turned around and hit the face up. Ironically, Sasha was the only guy looking to create for others.

  30. what I’m seeing is that Pau is playing a LOT of minutes, and maybe he’s going to start wearing out soon. DJ doesn’t seem to be in the flow of a game yet, so I think we’re going to have to go with Josh Powell to back up both LO and Pau.
    Pau can’t keep playing 40 plus minutes a game, especially if we want him to be strong for the push down the stretch.
    maybe this is where Mihm might have been useful.
    of course, when Andrew comes back, we’ll be able to get around this problem, but that’s what…about 6 weeks away?

  31. embarrising defence

  32. This is just a bad game all over. I’m almost embarrassed.

  33. The problem is when you let a team hang around, they gain confidence and suddenly Foye is hitting fade-away threes over a 7 footers arm.

  34. i wonder if the lakers will leave the T-Wolves wide open for the tying three?!?

  35. time to give up an open three lakers…

  36. I think it’s a loss when your starters have to play 40+ minutes against teams like this.

    Odom has 41, Pau/Kobe have 36 each…

    Odom the only Laker with Offensive Rebounds.

  37. well despite the airball Gomes was wide open….

  38. Lakers play this way against denve or phoenix, they’ll lose by 20

  39. There’s the three we were waiting for. Kobe’s rare clutch FT miss contributes more drama than necessary.

  40. jd: The good thing is that if the pattern of this season continues, they won’t. They only play this way against bad teams;)

  41. if we look at the contenders playing today, including those teams with injuries, i’d say we’d be part of the underachieving bunch (with denver). our bench is out of some flow here for the 2nd game in a row and i would think they’d make some ground after seeing what the starters (thanks fish and kobe) had to do cleaning up the other night after their mess.

    frankly, these close call games can lead one to doubt the depth of our team and give an uneasy feeling once in a while but i am not panicking for the same reason — our bench is not in the groove and when it does (including less bickering during practice sessions please) we still win. i’m not jumping on the bandwagon who says we can’t claim the title. but no one is winning a title playing like this and we can’t make excuses for these kinds of games (like oh we were playing sloppy, how long has it been?). oh maybe i’m being hard on these lakers. but we need discipline and this is part of the identity we were talking about some posts ago. a lot of close games and times the lakers stopping down the level of their lesser-capable opponents, too much for us with high blood pressure. Ws are Ws anyhow but i hope we could be left with a more secure feeling when we battle with the likes of the jefferson-less twolves. i love these lakers and so i have to talk hard (at times hard crap) sometimes when i see something like this. we can be more than this and patience can only go so long.

    in the end, it’s all good down in lakerland. kobe’s sealing this game for us. but still, we could have better days.

    btw, utah’s looking scarier returning player at a time. GO LAKERS!

    great posts guys!

  42. The lakers second unit really hasn’t been playing well recently, especially Sasha. Teams are chasing him off the 3 line and he has yet to really adjust. it also seems like teams overplay their defender as soon as Powell gets the ball so he’s forced to create or shoot.

  43. As much as i would like us to blow out bottom seeded teams without their best offensive player, i also admire how we win games. Should we be more hyped? Probably. But i dont think its emotionally possible to get hyped for every single game especially against the types of Minny and Charlotte.

    Yes the minutes are begining to pile up on Pau and Odom, but we have to remember that everyone brings thier A game when the lakers are in town. But a W is a W and i will take this W.

  44. A win is a win – onto Seatlle, err, OKC.

  45. Ugly win but I’ll take it. Lamar came up big for us down the stretch.

  46. The Lakers definitely knows a thing or two when it comes to making things exciting..

  47. The Wolves took 25 3pt shots, live by the 3 die by the 3.

  48. sign of a great team – even a W is met with criticism.

    anyway, i like the result, i kinda like our box score (20+ from our top 3, Kobe had decent number of assists and rebounds, Lamar had a good night, etc.), and nobody got injured.

    at this point of the season, any game that gives us a W is a good game, any game that doesn’t produce an injury is a decent game.

  49. There is no such thing as an ugly road win in the NBA. End of story.

  50. What a game by Lakers Big Three!

  51. This is the kind of win that gives the coaches plenty to attack next practice, it was not pretty. But, if we have the best record in the league at the end of the season, I’m not going to care about it other than it was a win.

  52. Heath Ledger has won Best Supporting Actor. There is a God.

  53. I could only imagine how hard it is to motivate for some of these games in this ridiculously long season, especially after handling the Cavs and Boston I am surprised the Lakers havent lost since the break yet. The NBA should abandon the whole East/ West thing and banish teams that come in the bottom consistantly to a seperate league and have to earn there way back, I belive thats how the Euro’s do there soccer league it would give guys something to play for, I guess it wouldnt work with free agency but it would be nice to not have to play the Clippers four or five times a year. Or the Grizzlies who cost us a starting center every year for a worthless game.

  54. Randy Foye is gonna be a nice player. Craig Smith is cool cause he is from Fairfax HS.

    LO and Luke have really been ballin. Gasol needs more rest, we should let Mbenga get 10 mins a game.

    Josh Powell needs to relax and get back to focusing on O boards and pick and pop j’s.

  55. I noticed everybody talking about the 2nd unit, and I finally got to see it LIVE on TV via ESPN against the Hornets the other night.
    I’ve got the theory as to why though. LO.
    You’ve got to remember, LO was coming off the bench with the second unit, doing what he did for 24 mins a night and the second unit was beating some starting units.
    Take LO out of that second unit and it just seems like they’re out of sync.

  56. 56-Good point. That hasn’t been talked about much, but it makes total sense.

  57. The Lakers have actually not played well since they came back from their 6-0 road trip. In their 6 games since the trip they are 5-1, only lost to Utah in Utah, but they have played some ugly games. Hard time against the Thunder, could of easily lost to the hornets, and almost lost to a bad team tonight. I wouldnt be surprised if this team is bored. They beat Boston and Cleveland on the road so ots gota be hard for them to get motivated against some of these teams….

  58. PeanutButterSpread February 22, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Back to back close games are a little troubling.

    Against the Hornets, our bench let us down even though our starters thoroughly outplayed the Hornets starters.

    Sasha with another donut is getting troubling, I’d like to see him bounce back to his former “machine” self, but then again, playing limited minutes prollie isn’t boding well for his productivity

    In this game … our bench was a none factor again.

    Hopefully after having two subpar games the bench mob will snap out of it and not rest on its laurels. I feel like after the Atlanta game they’ve lost that energy they usually provide.

    Then again, last year, our bench went through a “slump” period too. Hopefully everything will sort itself soon.

    Still, a win is a win, I’ll take it. I just wish Pau wasn’t playing 40 minute games every night.

  59. 56. Good point about LO and how much he helped the second unit. That’s a huge drop-off in talent from him to Powell. This is probably the 4th or 5th comment I’ve made about this subject, but I think Andrew is going to be our second unit anchor when he returns, even when he’s already been back for a month. No opposing second unit center will be able to withstand his onslaught down low in the post. His presence (and his vociferousness in demanding the ball) will probably aid in getting the Bench Mob off of the “jacking up 3-pointers with 15 seconds on the shot clock” habit. Having the opposition collapse on him might also cure Sasha’s shooting slump. The Machine will have a lot more room to shoot from beyond the arc.

  60. yeah, like #56 says, LO out of the bench mob, combined with Sasha going cold, (now it’s all mental) makes for a pretty weak bench mob, and the way PJ uses Pau, keeping him out on the floor with the bench is starting to burn him out I fear, so we saw our first taste of Mbenga! (can’t say his name without the “!”) and I think we all saw that DJ is more than a bit rusty right now. I think we’re going to need to get DJ some real game PT, because as we saw last year, Andrew might not get back as anticipated, and we better start thinking of a solid back up C. (I read today that Mikki Moore is on waivers, is that interesting?) or we go with DJ!

  61. Given how we have ample evidence of dialing up the effort against better teams, I’m not that worried about the fact that these games are close, but beating these teams by a comfortable margin allows our starters to rest.

    On the subject of our bench mob underperforming, I think they really miss Lamar helping them. Aside from that, it’s important to note that when we have Bynum, he or Pau is nearly always on the floor with the bench mob, so not having a legitimate low post scoring presence might be hurting the spacing Farmar and Sasha like for their shots or Ariza for his slashing. As well as Powell has played for us, he can’t duplicate Gasol’s or Bynum’s production in the post. Taking a look at the waiver market for an extra big might remedy this, so it will be interesting to see who gets released by March 1.

  62. i agree with ozlaker’s comment about LO being the difference maker in 2nd unit production.

    although i would like to add that in this game, another possible theory why we are unable to get away.
    The minutes played by our Big Three is reasonable.
    Which means that PJ doesn’t overused them although the game is tight all game through.
    And i like this, because the game rhythm is consistent.

    I just hope the 2nd unit could find their groove back.

    OKC should provide a big challenge for the 2nd unit, cause their starter is very productive so it should match up well with ours. But their bench is thin and we should be able to outplay them.

  63. The Dude: absolutely. I’d be happier if andrew even came off the bench up through playoffs, the way Lamar has played in his increased minutes. Which lineup gets more rebounds a game? With Lamar’s excellent rebounding, I think it’s gotta be Lamar/pau.

  64. What a playoff lineup – Fish, Kobe, Luke, Odom, Pau…off the bench with Bynum, Ariza, Farmar, Sasha…

    Phil is diggin’ the situation. Stern is loving it. Lebron vs. Kobe: Our future matchup of the NBA Finals.

    I think we match up really well to win that series.

  65. Double Post:

    Closing line up: Kobe, Fish, Odom, Gasol, Bynum. The best 5 closers on our team, and they all can play together very well.

    Match-up problems all over the court.

  66. #66: I think that closing lineup would create spacing problems. It sounds great in theory, but would probably really clog the lane and take away from what Odom and (to a lesser extent) Kobe can do for the team. Odom has really learned to move without the ball, and one of his best moves is slashing to the basket. With both Bynum and Gasol in the lane, it takes Odom’s ability to drive to the basket away somewhat (and his ability to rebound and/or tip). Same thing with Kobe. Even though he can shoot the fall away, you don’t want the other team’s defense to force him into that shot; he needs room to operate. I think, in a close game, it might be better to only have two of Odom/Gasol/Bynum in there (depending on matchups), and then Kobe, Fish, and Sasha (if he’s shooting well. If not, Ariza or whoever’s shooting the ball well). You want to have shooters out there to give you the option of going inside to Bynum/Gasol, have Odom slash to the basket or Kobe drive and kick/get fouled, and Fish and Sasha out there as catch and shoot guys. It would seem to me the spacing is kind of key, though.

  67. At this point I don’t even bat an eyelid when the Lakers produce performances like this. They have mastered the art of playing down (or up) to the level of their competition, especially at the defensive end. I wish they would learn how to cover the 3-point line better though, especially late in the game. Some of the looks they give up are just ridiculous.

  68. 66-Phil has not used LO/Pau/Drew in one lineup yet, I’m not sure it’s because he is waiting to use it in the playoffs or because it would not have enough shooting on the court.

  69. This again comes down to what system our team is meant to run. When the starters are in, we have pretty much the perfect team to run the triangle: Kobe on the wing, Gasol in the low-post, Odom and Walton as cutters, Fish for the kick out.

    Now, when the bench comes in, notice they still run the triangle, but look who is out there: Ariza on the wing, Powell in the low-post, Sasha and Farmar as kick-outs, and DJ to rebound. Our bench, as currently constructed, is not built to run the triangle. Ariza does not have the basketball experience and calmness to run the team through the post, same for Powell. This is usually why we have to leave either Pau or LO out on the floor with the bench as someone to facilitate the offense.

    How can this be remedied? By running more PNR (as seems to always be the case). For all the flak he takes, Farmar is undeniably the fastest guy on our team. The past few games, Farmar has had a couple of great drive and pull-ups in mid-range, so he no longer has to get to the rim in order to score. I liken this to Tony Parker about 2 years ago, when he learned to pull up from 15 feet instead of crashing to the hole and getting stuffed. We also have a legitimately good pick-n-pop guy in Josh Powell. Put Sasha in the corner, with Ariza cutting to the hole when Farmar turns the corner and DJ in the middle to rebound, and we’ve got a team solidly built to run the PNR.

    The only reason we’ve seen a run of ineffectiveness is because we’ve been trying to run the triangle through Pau when the bench comes in, and the personnel is nowhere near built as well to run it as the starters. Given our bench’s makeup, I think we’d benefit a lot from running the PNR a lot more than we currently are, especially with Farmar because he’s probably the best creator on our team (sans Kobe).

  70. Great animated gifs of Shannon Brown’s monster block and the reaction from the Laker bench. Hilarious!

    http://lakerlogic.blogspot.com/2009/02/shannon-brown-welcome-to-la.html

    Go Lakers!!!

  71. 67, 69:

    The spacing issue in the triangle seems to be the only real deterrent from the LO/AB/Gasol lineup. What we do know is that if we can find a way to fit these three together, then we will have an absolutely dynamic unit on the court. The size and versatility would really overwhelm any opponents we come across. We’d have advantages on the boards and all over the interior defensively.

    But it comes back to spacing. Personally, I do think that Lamar has improved his three-point shot and most importantly, his confidence in it, enough that teams can’t sag off him on the three-point line. If he gets the ball there and is open, he is willing to shoot it and seems reasonably confident that he will make it. Odom can play on the weak side with Fish, as Kobe runs the P/R w/ Pau on the strong side. Bynum can occupy space on the opposite low block to keep the extra big from helping out on Kobe & Pau.

    This still leaves Odom with the option of slashing from the weak side towards the basket. We talk about spacing, but is Ariza really much or any better at shooting the 3-ball than Lamar? I understand that Sasha is the best shooter of the three by a fair margin, but that has not really been a great payoff when we’ve needed it (not to say I lack faith). But the bigger question is, what is the opportunity cost of Lamar or Bynum being on the bench to “protect spacing”. With Sasha, we lose defense and offensive playmaking.

    At the beginning of the year, I was for this a lot, but then I cooled off on the idea early on. The more I consider it, I feel this would be our most dominating group to have out there when it counts. The lineup of AB/LO/Gasol would lead to far more advantages than not being able to execute the offense. I am confident that they can find a way to score points. If that group can’t score, then we are in trouble against one dominating defense.

  72. Yesterday’s game was won by our talent alone. Granted, the Wolves hit a few shots they normally wouldn’t make, but we got the w. And it wouldn’t hurt us to cover the perimeter better…

  73. read today on hoopsworld that the Lakers are one of 4 teams interested in Mikki Moore, the others being the Celtics and Nuggets, and (?) forgot…
    but, the point here is, isn’t he a back up 4 or 5?
    I think we’re looking at needing a back up 4 or 5, or living with DJ Mbenga for the rest of the season.
    and, one other point, doesn’t it make sense to try to get him just so the C’s and Nug’s can’t?

  74. 72:

    You make a great point about Lamar’s 3-point shooting. He certainly seems much more confident about taking (and making) them, but I still think it’s a bit problematic to count on him making that shot because the more he takes, the more he’ll miss. I don’t mind him taking that shot in the rhythm of the offense and when it’s available, but he’s so much better driving or cutting to the basket that I don’t think we want him camped out on the 3-point line. But you’re right: Sasha hasn’t been shooting well at all lately and Ariza is about the same as Odom in terms of 3-point shot making. I think the line up with him/Bynum/Gasol could work if Odom’s hitting that shot. But I think it would depend on that, and it could only be used in situations where the team they’re playing is not a run and gun team.