Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Kurt —  December 11, 2009

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Records: Lakers 17-3 (1st in West) Timberwolves 3-19 (15th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.8 (11th in league) Timberwolves 97.2 (29th in league)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 99.3 (2nd in league) Timberwolves 108.7 (22nd in league)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Timberwolves: Johnny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Damien Wilkins, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson.

The Lakers Coming in: Last home game for the Lakers before they head out on a five game roadie, starting in Utah tomorrow night.

Kevin Ding made this point: If you haven’t seen it, Amare Stoudimire is working with David Spade on a video viral campaign to get him to Dallas. With the huge vote head start he has, Amare is going to be the starting center for the West. Bynum, though, has to be the backup with Yao out.

Also, World Cup — I was pumped when I saw the United States’ pool draw. Slovenia, that’s a win, right? Sasha Vujacic says not so fast….

The Timberwolves Coming in: One of the things we often talk about with the Lakers is how they have built a roster that fits the triangle offense. The Timberwolves want to run the triangle under Kurt Rambis, but their personnel is a horrible fit for the version the Lakers run.

What you end up with it is more like the Rambis Rhombus.

The issues start with a talented rookie point guard Johnny Flynn. He is a talented player, but is a more traditional point guard who likes to penetrate and shoot/kick out. Coach Anthony Macri, one of the guys who works with David Thorpe and his training facility, and he wrote a great breakdown at Basketball Prospectus.

Minnesota’s second-leading scorer, Flynn has been impressive in his rookie year. He has a knack for getting into the lane and finishing plays, and he tends to make good things happen with the ball in his hands. As he improves his shooting consistency, he will become even more effective. However, Flynn’s real strength as a ball-dominating speed guard does not necessarily translate into the traditional triangle parameters. Whether the Wolves can adjust their triangle to his abilities is a question they have yet to answer.

The T-Wolves have been playing better of late, and that is for two key reasons. One, they are getting away from the triangle a little and letting Flynn do what he wants. The other is the return from injury of Kevin Love, who helps provide an inside presence, shoot from the outside, and pass well. He is sort of the Pau Gasol for the T-Wolves offense. Again Macri.

In theory, Love’s talents as a passer should be excellent in the offense, and because he can also be active and effective from the foul line area, he can be a very good scorer in the triangle. In his first few games back, he has proven to be a valuable contributor. As the season progresses, his exact fit will be easier to ascertain.

So where are the Wolves falling short? Three major areas: fast-break and secondary-break actions, lack of precision in their offensive execution and a failure to embrace what triangle innovator Tex Winter would call the “ping” pass.

Keys to game: Tonight comes down to execution — the T-Wolves show flashes of it then spend a five minutes (or a quarter) doing whatever they want. If the Lakers simply execute they should be fine.

The Lakers need to not let Flynn get to the rim at will, he really is an amazingly quick penetrating point guard who is going to have a good future in the league (my only question is his fit in this offensive system). Fisher/Farmar are not going to be able to stop him alone, Bynum and the other bigs will need to take away and alter his shots closer to the rim. Also, if he lines up for a long two or three pointer, let him take it (he’s not a bad shooter, and he will get better, but he’s less effective that way than with his penetration).

Bynum needs to be focused on Jefferson, who runs thee floor well for a big man and loves to get early deep position (from which he scores pretty easily). With Love, they use him at the pinch post and flashing into the lane, the Lakers need to make that pass hard to complete.

While Jefferson and Love are both good players, they are really both fours, not long and strong enough to stop Gasol and Bynum down low. The Lakers need to exploit that early and often. The other key is turnovers — Flynn, Brewer and the rest can create them and then get easy transition buckets. The Lakers need to take care of the ball.

Hopefully, this is the kind of game where these guys can get some burn:


Where you can watch: 7:30 start at Staples Center, you watch on Fox Sports and listen on 710 ESPN on your AM dial. I’ll be at Staples so look for updates here in the comments, and I’ll be helping out with the Daily Dime live chat.