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.



119 responses to Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. I had some luck with this for the last game against the Jazz, so…
    this one’s for Warren!

  2. The Celtics are hot on the Lakers heels. The Lakers need to get this back2back.

  3. It is a Friday Night, so I predict we struggle shooting and this game is closer than it should be.

    Tomorrow is a huge game- bigger than Wednesday’s. If Utah wins they just came through the roughest 4 game stretch of their season 3-1 probably and the first game we beat them loses its psychological weight. If the Lakers win, they claim a big psychological boost against Utah AND Orlando by proxy, even moreso because of the b2b.

    Hopefully, they don’t overlook the wolves though.



  5. The All Star game is really not that big of a deal, Bynum and Gasol will get in as coaches’ picks anyway

  6. Losing to the wolves will affect the all-important Hollinger rankings quite a bit.

    Rightfully so, I might add…

    Hope it’s one-sided enough to have Sasha play lots!

  7. I don’t think voting is worth the trouble; I tried at and it seems as though you have to go through some sort of masonic ritual!

  8. I think we should all band together to vote Chris Duhon in as a starter for the east.

  9. I’m with JD, I think it’d be more fun to do something like that.

    In fact, we should vote for any other player besides a Laker for the team. I want the entire team in a rage for the second half about the snub.

  10. I was thinking about this today:

    I have the unfortunate distinction of being a New York Jets fan.

    This weekend, they play against the 1-8 Tampa Bay Bucs, a team, ON PAPER, they should easily beat, but I am TERRIFIED.

    The Jets ALWAYS lose the trap games. No matter who the coach is, or who is on the field, the team is cursed to disappoint their loyal fans. I’ve steeled myself for the inevitability of the Jets losing on Sunday, even though they are in the midst of a heated playoff race…and it’s still going to hurt when it happens.

    I have no such fear of the Lakers losing tonight. The Lakers lose a trap game every once in a great while, but it’s not the usual occurance.

    The game may be closer than it “should” be…but they’re not losing tonight.

    The Jets, on the other hand…well…oy vey.

  11. make that 8 games now for the taco unit.

  12. Juwan Howard still plays in the NBA?! WTF!

  13. updated:

    gotta rest the starters for tomorrow night. jazz won’t have another 6 point quarter, and up until the 4th on wednesday they were right in it.

  14. cleveland’s offense makes portland’s look downright scintillating.

  15. zephid13- my thoughts exactly! I remember I had an “NBA JAM” game for my Sega Genesis that had Juwan Howard back on the bullets. That was about… 95′! Then again, that had Jason Kidd on there too.

  16. Wasn’t that just great, Kurt Rambis getting his Championship ring tonight.

  17. If “Soft Touch” hasn’t been added to the Joel Myers Bingo Board, I’d like to formally nominate it.

    Funny thing is he only uses it to describe big men.

  18. Does anyone have any links for the game? Thanks!

  19. 19

    Has a Joel Meyers Bingo Board officially been created?

  20. Are Jazz fans going to treat Hot Rod Huntley the same way they treated Fisher tomorrow?

    the better question is if anyone knows the password to the other stream because this one is very low quality.

    Ron Artest with the Soft Touch! (good call 19)

  22. And here’s one without Meyers:

    Which isn’t always a bad thing.

  23. If anyone knows how to disect the laker’s offense its kurt rambis.. not only did he design the system but he’s familiar w/each of the laker’s weaknesses.. (other than ron).. lakers will need to win this w/brute force..

  24. Great steal by Artest on the inbound pass. I’ve always known he was a great defender but being able to watch him every game has truly amazed me how hard he plays D.

  25. I think “…Break for the Lakers” could go on the board too.

  26. OK Kurt, here are a few more nominations:

    So that’s how it begins
    The best in the game (referring to Kobe)
    We talked about it
    Points off a turnover
    Gets him the assist

  27. did kobe hurt his finger again?

  28. @31 – it looked like Brewer jammed Kobe’s finger on that steal attempt. Sure hope it’s nothing serious.

  29. Harold, it was his middle finger, not the pinky. It was bleeding but it may have been jammed or worse on top of that. Hopefully its just the laceration.

  30. Is anybody else as worried as me about Kobe’s finger, index of his shooting hand no less. As I say this he is back on the court, great!

  31. Thank God PJ put Kobe back in- we almost had TWO men named Sasha in the game at once

  32. well lamar is stinking it up tonight

  33. Joel, j.d.:

    It’s anybody’s game now.

  34. That was an insane lob by Kobe, but is he deliberately avoiding his right hand?

  35. Kobe’s not doing anything with his right hand. They tell us it’s a sprain on the first knuckle of his index finger, but I have a feeling it’s worse than that. Also, the entire team is playing with no intensity and Phil has been forced to call a timeout.

  36. i agree – kobe is making even the easiest passes with his left hand instead of his right…even his FT motion looked a little weird.

  37. Ugh. That was an ugly shot by Fish.

  38. I’m a little annoyed that Meyers was too busy being a Kobe fanboy to realise that Kobe’s right hand was still messed up.

  39. And for anyone who wants to listen to it being “anybody’s game now”, or how “it’s all even at…”, here’s a good link:

  40. I can’t believe you guys forgot ” *insert term* – game” That’s gotta be the middle space.

  41. 39

    Also: “(Insert type of shot here) game”

  42. Great minds think alike Zephid. 😛

  43. LOL, here’s a rare gem from Meyers.

    Hot Rod: Sasha Pavlovic showing he can rebound.

    Meyers: Especially when he’s the only one underneath.

  44. we should hunt corey brewer down if he hurt kobe

  45. Everyone is forgetting “short corner three.”

  46. 38. Maybe if Khloe’s ex Rashad McCants was still on the Timberwolves he would be motivated to play in this game.

  47. Jeff Van Gundy’s not impressed with the hype around John Wall. Just said Rod Strickland looked better at that age.

    Can’t confirm or deny that, all I remember Strickland for is his Jail Blazers stint.

    Lmao what was Phil saying to Sasha in the huddle? “Catch the ball?” Easier said than done with the Machine, Phil.

  48. Good time for the Machine to suddenly start working again.

    • That was sloppy. When was the last time Phil called a time out during an opponent run?

      The Wolves may be fronting the post more, but the Lakers need to counter. They need to run the offense inside-out.

  49. The Minnesota color commentator just called Sasha the Madonna of the Lakers

  50. Sloppy…

  51. that was a TERRIBLE post entry pass by fish – looked like he was still pissed off at the ref, so he just flung into pau leading to the turnover

  52. Anyone else think the Lakers are a little too excited for EnergySolutions tomorrow to be playing tonight?

  53. REALLY sloppy . . .

  54. Kurt,
    Any inside info on kobes finger

  55. Any word on Kobe’s finger? I mean it’s Kobe, so I’m not terribly worried. The guy could break both hands and learn to shoot like Air Bud. And still shoot a higher percentage than Sasha.

  56. “And it’s that kind of night…”

  57. Just me..but anything with the word “fracture” doesn’t sit well.

    Avulsion Fracture

    If anyone can deal, it’s him though. Since he’s back in the second half, I can’t imagine it is too severe.

  58. kobe’s got a lateral fracture on his finger.

  59. @60

    The Lakers going into that game is like an exhaust army fighting a war in enemy soil while the enemy is doing guerrilla warfare. It won’t be fun for the Lakers that for sure, and i doubt they’re excite.

  60. What avulsion fracture? Kobe just drained a three.

  61. Drew’s getting a lot of “look what I found” offensive rebounds and putting them back in 😀

    Avulsion fractures aren’t horrible, but they’re not peanuts either.

  62. isn’t that what he had on his right pinky last year?

  63. True assassins like Kobe don’t need silly appendages like fingers.

    Kobe’s pinky detached and he became The Nine Fingered Ninja.

    Then his ring finger was sprained and he became The Eight Fingered Executioner.

    Now his index finger is fractured so he becomes The Seven Fingered Sniper.

    All in a day’s work for The Black Mamba.

  64. Another three.

  65. yes all on the same hand. Kobe hurt his pinky in 2008, his ring finer in 2009 and now his index finger in 2010 season. he’s now playing with 7 good fingers and still killing it.

  66. Oh dear, poor Fish. That was savage.

  67. Yeah that was brutal

  68. An avulsion fracture occurs when the tendon pulls off a small piece of bone.

  69. @72 I thought the issue with his pinky he had torn the ligament off the bone but not a fracture?

  70. Do you notice that every time Kobe Is aggressive defensively, he hurts his fingers? That so crazy to me he started off real focused on d tonight

  71. The ref should have blew the whistle for something there. That dunk on Fish’ was just wrong.

  72. 81 – I thought he hurt it when Brewer was going for the ball? At least that’s what they showed on the ESPN replay.

  73. i think the biggest problem kobe will have in the short-term is his ballhandling, not his shooting.

  74. How ironic – two steals by the two guys we least want to see leading a 1-man fastbreak. At least Fish played it smart.

  75. the other Stephen December 11, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    i think fish’s legs might have more lift than ron’s at this point.

  76. KB ballhandling this year has been a little suspect. Seems to be getting stripped more than years in the past.

  77. Laker D, coming up big again!

  78. 25 dimes on 36 FGs…looking good.

  79. 18 comdined shots for bynum and gasol not nearly enough

  80. Nice little run there to end the quarter.

  81. Damn Brown’s throwing them up like Baron Davis.

  82. Watching 2 games at the same time. Robin Lopez needs to watch Pau on offensive boards. He brings the ball down low and has slow hands; he’s fumbling it every single time. It doesn’t take a lot of bball IQ, just keep the ball high and put it back quickly.

  83. Al Jefferson is roasting Pau in the post.

  84. someone remind me why MIN drafted 2 PGs when they had a perfectly serviceable one in Sessions??

  85. 97

    Hollins might be the quickest center in the league.


    Actually, they drafted the 2 PGs before they signed Sessions.

  86. i wanna see some more machine

  87. I was referring to the offensive foul on Drew, not Sasha’s career.

  88. Al Jefferson is being wasted. It’s not like KG was wasted in MN, because he’s not the all-around player KG is, but Jefferson is as good as it gets in terms of low-post offense.

    Is MN just a black hole for big men? Imagine Jefferson on a real team. Or even the Bulls.

    goat – You can’t draft by that logic. It’s why Portland took Bowie over MJ. You go with talent and let the pieces play out later. Sessions is serviceable, at the time, they thought Rubio would be a franchise player. The Nets, with Harris, should absolutely draft John Wall.

  89. I am really intrigued by Rambis’ strategy to guard the Lakers. When Kobe is out, he is aggressively sagging off Odom and Artest, sitting two defenders in Bynum’s lap and quickly trapping him, forcing him to pass out of a double.

    He might think these are weaknesses, but Artest has hit a few wide open 3’s, and Odom has been active recently and able to roam to the basket at will.

    It has been interesting to watch; of course 97 points so far, not particularly effective.

  90. Edit to my above post – You draft by talent when there’s potentially franchise altering talent available. In the later parts of the draft, drafting by need is a wise strategy. Especially when trying to unearth a role player in the late first/second round.

  91. These Rainn Wilson NBA ads are atrocious.

  92. Joel’s right. Barcelona is amazing.

  93. What’s with PJ calling timeouts now during opponent runs? 3 times in last two games

  94. Wow door opened big time on Pavlovic.

  95. Snoopy – True, but Wall is by all accounts one of those ridiculous talents you HAVE to draft no matter what. But Jonny Flynn?!

    I guess at the end of the day i’m still faulting them for not taking a legitimate 2 guard.

  96. goat – Yeah I was more thinking Rubio as a (hyped) franchise player. Flynn….the only thing I can say is that the league is moving towards quick guards. But yeah, I haven’t been too impressed with Kahn so far.

  97. Minny is so poorly equipped to run the Triangle. I see Love as a good passing big man and Jefferson’s all around post skills, but with Flynn and Sessions, (and no legit wing player) this system screams pick and roll to me.

    And really, I see no way Love and Jefferson can play together, long term. No semblance of shot blocking or any kind of post D.

    Memo to Minny GM: You cannot build a team with 2 PF and 2 PG

  98. Holy crap. Amare with the offensive rebound in traffic to (almost) ice the game. That’s like Josh Powell winning the game on a dunk.

  99. Pau Gasol, our PF got a career high in rebounds tonight, huh?

    • New Kobe post up.

      And Pau was really working on the boards tonight. Bynum was still waiting for the ball to come to him, but Artest and Pau worked it.

  100. yeah it looked like Bynum had an attitude or something tonight, seemed kind of lazy to me. good thing we had Pau working hard.
    and how about sasha? 7 points, season high, did OK, it would be nice to see him become productive again.
    artest is becoming the steal machine.

  101. Well, it’s good to see that I can fly all the way from Australia, get tickets for a game, and then see Kobe hurt his finger!

    BUT, a great time was had, a good win was secured, and The Machine went 3 for 3. Nice.