Preview and Chat: The Minnesota T’Wolves

Darius Soriano —  March 19, 2010

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Records: Lakers 50-18 (1st in West), T’Wolves 14-55 (Last in West, 36.5 games behind Lakers)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 109.1 (10th in NBA), T’Wolves 101.4 (29th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 102.8 (4th in NBA), T’Wolves 111.0 (28th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
T’Wolves: Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Al Jefferson, Darko Milicic

How’s your bracket doing?:  Mine is busted.  As a matter of fact, mine was never even fully formed to begin with.  Let’s just say I didn’t save my work when I made my picks and I had a bunch of unassigned picks.  Now, I’m sitting there with a bunch of red on my bracket and it looks quite ugly.  So, my goal to not come in last in the FB&G pool is pretty much dead in the water.  I did pick St. Mary’s though.

A fun fact about the Lakers and the NCAA tourney – only Shannon (Michigan St.) and Ammo (Gonzaga) are alumni of schools that actually made the tournament.  I don’t have any figures to support this, but that’s got to be a leauge low.  On a side note to this, The Lakers have 5 players that didn’t even attend college in the US – Kobe, Sasha, Pau, Bynum, and Mbenga.  Who do you think would win in a matchup of that “non-college” team vs. the “went to college” team if they scrimmaged in practice?  I would have to say that any team with Kobe, Pau, and Bynum would win just by dominating the inside.  On the other hand, they’d be slow in transition defense and probably terrible covering the P&R.  In the end, just like when filling out his bracket, Kobe would probably cheat to win.

The T’Wolves Coming in:  Minnesota is a bad team.  There’s just no getting around that.  They’ve got the second worst record in the league, ranking second to last in offense and third from the bottom in defense.  And even though coming into this season many understood that Minnesota was rebuilding and that patience would be required with this team, that doesn’t change the fact that this team is losing a lot of games and are on pace to be even worse, record wise, than last season.  The guys who are taking the most heat for this are GM David Kahn, and head coach Kurt Rambis.  Kahn for his drafting (Rubio is still, probably, 2 seasons away from joining the team and Flynn is probably the 4 best PG taken in that draft while being the 3rd taken – after Tyreke and Rubio) and Rambis for some questionable decisions with his rotations – espcecially how he’s utilizing Kevin Love (who is not starting, and even when Jefferson was out with injury did not start). 

But all is not awful for the ‘Wolves.  They do have Al Jefferson who, despite not being 100% recovered from his knee injury from last season, has shown flashes of his old self.  And they also have some young players that are improving (Corey Brewer) and others that are finding their way in this league despite being thrown into the fire (Flynn).  Is that enough for the fans of ‘Sota?  At this point, it will have to be because there aren’t too many other positives for this organization right now.  Especially when the team has lost 17 of 18 games.  Yikes.

T’Wolves Blogs:  Check out Howlin’ T-Wolf and Canis Hoopus for all the latest news and notes on the team from the land of 1,000 lakes.

Keys to game:  When the team you’re facing struggles to score and also struggles to defend, the game plan for the defending NBA champions is really quite simple: play your normal game.  Minnesota doesn’t have the individual talent to contain the Lakers in one on one matchups nor the team structure/schemes to slow them down as a unit.  So, on offense, attack Minnesota inside and make their big men (especially Jefferson and Love) defend the paint.  Both of those players are sub-par on that side of the ball and they will not be able to handle the Lakers bigs.  We should see stat lines from Bynum and Gasol similar to the ones that they put up against Golden State and Sacramento.  Be patient wit the ball and attack them inside out.  The one player that can defend some is Darko Milicic, who was recently acquired via trade with the Knicks (Darko has been playing better of late, too).  So, I am anxious to see how he does against our twin towers and if things go poorly for him, there’s always the chance we could see this again.  That’d be tremendous.

On defense, the Lakers are going up against a team that runs the same offensive system that they do (supposedly) so there should be some familiarity in what the ‘Wolves are doing on that side of the ball.  That said, there are specific things that the Lakers should look out for that vary from the typical Triangle actions.  One is the high P&R between Flynn and Jefferson.  Flynn is an explosive player that can turn the corner and finish in the paint.  While he’s not as big nor as strong as Tyreke Evans, they are similar types of players so the Lakers must make him an outside shooter and deny his penetration.  Another key to holding down Minnesota’s offense is to contain Al Jefferson.  As I mentioned earlier, he’s still finding his stride after he blew out his knee last year, but he’s a dangerous player on the low block with an array of hooks, feints, and up and under moves that can make even the most solid of post defenders look silly.  So, body up Big Al, make him go to his left hand by turning over his right shoulder and respect his jump hook all the way out to 12 feet.  Al’s not the biggest or most athletic player so Bynum and Gasol need to stand their ground and make him finish over the top of their extended arms. 

Besides Flynn and Jefferson, mark Kevin Love on the offensive glass.  Love, despite his lack of jumping ability is a wide body that has trendous instincts for rebounding the basketball - especially on offense.  He finds the little cracks and crevices in a team’s half court defense and then moves bodies to secure the ball.  Sure, ‘Drew and Pau will have the reach advantage against Love, but he will move them under the hoop and make them put a body on him.  And since straight up box outs are not a strength of our bigs, this could be a problem.  If our bigs gang rebound tonight, we should be fine, but keep an eye on Love.  Finally, the ‘Wolves play at the third fastest pace in the leauge.  Spurred on by the defensive rebounding and outlet passing of Love and Jefferson, this team will push the ball and attack when fast break opportunities present themselves.  Believe me, Derek Fisher remembers what this team can do in the open court.  We don’t want to see any more of that (well, unless it’s a blowout – then a highlight play is always fun). 

In the end, there will be no excuses if the Lakers lose this game.  I don’t care if Rambis knows all of our secrets and has individual game plans for each of our players.  The ‘Wolves are not a good team.  A win should be coming as the Lakers hope to continue to build momentum down the final stretch.  I’ll leave the final word to commenter lil’ pau, who is also looking big picture and playoff positioning:

Lakers have to win tonight and Sunday. That would put them at 52-18 and 4 up (at least) in the loss column over DAL and DEN. Even assuming they lose HCA to both teams, that would mean they would clinch the west going 9-3, 8-4 would mean DAL or DEN would have to win out, and 7-5 would mean that Dallas would have to go 13-1 or Den 12-1. I know the Lakers have a brutal roadtrip ahead, but I don’t credibly see them playing only .500 ball over their last 12.

Where you can watch:  7:30 start time out west on Fox Sports West, also on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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43 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota T’Wolves

  1. For Warren

  2. Interesting that Bynum said that for the first time all season he is forcing the Lakers to go into the paint. I love Phil for this reason… When the playoffs come around Phil then starts coaching to win.

  3. … Meant Bynum was saying Phil is now forcing the team to make the ball get into the post.

  4. Nice preview.
    We are playing terrible and are on a losing streak which has to end eventually.

    I have a very good feeling Lakers are going to relax tonight and my Wolves are gonna steal the game.

    Called it here first

  5. @4 Minnyfan, first off good luck tonight, your boy Al Jefferson was Killing it last year, would like to see him get healthy again, a Rambis Triangle teamed might be pretty tough it a not too distant future!; though I think since the Lakers are gearing up for the playoff push, everyone will bring their A-game. Here’s for a fun game today, go Lakers!

  6. It’s funny because I’m an avid NBA2k10 player. The My Player mode let’s you create a team, participate in summer camps and D-league assignment. I got signed by Minnesota. Our starting five is Flynn, My Player at the 2, Travis Outlaw, Kevin Love, Al Jefferson. The last game I played was @Utah. Somehow, my season caught up with their real season. I’ve been getting burned by premier 2 guards; the next game is @Staples. Not looking forward to playing that game.

    Anyway, good preview for tonight. This should be a win as long as the team puts the effort in, especially on the glass. I’m looking for our bigs to continue the effort.

  7. was farmar not in the ncaa tournament for ucla in 2006?

  8. Yeah, but UCLA is not participating in the march madness right? So doesn’t count.

    I am hoping for a blow-out today, so our bench end could see some burn time. It’s been a while for them too.

  9. In all seriousness, this game should b over by the end of the 1st quarter. But n all likelihood, we’ll play down to the competition as usual & then finally pull away sometime n the 3rd quarter. Simple game plan: Pound the ball inside against their weak (Milicic) & short (Jefferson and Love) interior defenders. Bynum, L.O. & Pau should have a field day against the Wolves. Team number 3 out of 4 in a row against Developmental League competition (Warriors and Kings previously & finally Sunday against the Bullets … er Wizards). I’ll b disappointed if I don’t see a Mbenga & Ammo sighting sometime n the 4th quarter. Hopefully, Kobe will b in more facilitator mode 2nite & Sasha can continue improving so that he can warrant more mins & make himself a permanent fixture within the rotation.

    Laker 4 Life ….. Go Hard Or Go Home

  10. Tra,
    These are professionals after all. It usually doesn’t pay to refer to all your opponents as D-league scrubs. Often it is the system that has as much to do with a player’s performance as he does. Darko could be the latest example of this, although I do think Andrew and Pau should be able to dominate.

  11. The game will probably be closer than it should at the beginning, maybe Minny leading, considering LA has not played a game since Tuesday.

    These next two games should be warm-ups for the 5 game roadie coming Wednesday

  12. Craig W.,

    I think u r reading too much into the statement “Developmental League competition.” As u correctly stated, they’re professional althletes. Understood, but what I was doing was simply using that statement as a metaphor to describe our most recent opponents, which, compared to the rest of this month, are inferior teams. Meant no disrespect to those 4 clubs. Now with that being said, 2nite’s & Sunday’s game should be walks in the park. Then it’s on to the serious part of the schedule, which I’m sure you, as well as I, am looking 4ward to.

  13. Wow, check out the preview at Howlin T’Wolf. They give us the advantage at starting point guard. When’s the last time that happened?

    I think Kahn takes a lot of heat not for drafting Flynn particularly, but for his seeming lack of vision. I’m not sure he knows what he’s doing yet. But I have a hard time believing he’ll be worse than McHale. Maybe. I’ll wait until this year’s draft and maybe I’ll retract that statement.

    Like NJ, I see more talent on this roster than their record suggests. That normally points to coaching. But it might not be that they’re poorly coached, but that this is a natural adjustment time with a complex system. I’m interested to see how long Rambis is given; if the players are still struggling with the system next year, how long will he last?

    I think that’s where I question Kahn and Glen T. Drafting Flynn wasn’t necessarily a bad move, but then why do you hire Rambis? Flynn and Rubio project as bad fits for the system. They even said Kahn wanted an up-tempo team but was persuaded by Rambis; that doesn’t suggest a strong philosophy to me. This team will be fun to watch over the next couple years. If management decides the AJ-Love frontcourt won’t work…that’s one impressive player moving to another team.

  14. cheers darius

  15. I am sorry for this. As good as the Lakers look. Will someone tell Fish he can not shoot!

  16. Darius,

    Good Lookin’ on that link.

  17. I’m at this game. Sitting 5 feet from Horace Grant. Who was excitedly greeting Mark Madsen before tip off. Circa 2000. Surreal!!

  18. What should I call Kobe today? hhmmm… Magic Mamba!

    First post of the day but I’m posting too quickly! That’s funny.

  19. Darko Milicic fan right here. :) I really hope he gets into our team and let’s revive someone’s career yet again.

  20. It’s a shame he doesn’t do it all the time, because Kobe plays crazy good defense when he wants to.

  21. 22,

    +1 Zephid, I agree. Kobe probably and arguably is the best offensive player in terms of skill sets, and he knows he is the best defensive player in the world once he focuses 100% on that end.

  22. Decent 1st half …. Shot the ball well …. Too many lulls …. Playin’ down to the competition (as I expected) …. Kobe playin’ facilitator (also, as I expected) …. Should put this game away by mid 3rd quarter

  23. Geeez Fisher really is the worst shooter I can ever remember. Dosen’t he have any sense of how bad he is?

  24. Get Fisher out of the game. He is just the worst on defense and the worst shooter.

  25. quite an inspiring lack of effort in this qurater

  26. Why are we waiting for an update on Bynum? Should I panic?

  27. the second Fisher is out the game changes.

  28. Bynum out with a strained Achilles tendon. That’s an injury that will linger a little bit. Hopefully, Andrew will be back for the road trip.

  29. kobe needs to stop getting caught in the air

  30. Bynum with a strained akiles, out for the night. NO GOOD! Man this guy has a hard time with injuries once he starts looking good on the floor.

  31. Ah, okay. Thanks.

    A strain it not nearly as bad as I feared. I will now start breathing again.

  32. Gasol and LO are a thing of beauty on the court.

  33. Even if Bynum feels good by tomorrow I wouldn’t play him for Washington but I would really like him back for San Anton. They might just be our opponents in the first round!

  34. hope bynum is ok, also hope someone will heat up from beyond the arc in the playoffs like trevor and lamar did last year

  35. I know at times when we let bad teams hang around it’s because of our defense, but in my opinion, the reason why we’ve struggled all season to blow teams out or put teams away is because we are just a BAD shooting team. And by “bad”, I simply mean relative to the better shooting teams in the league or even some of our past teams.

    Even when we run the offense efficiently, we always seem to go thru periods where we just can’t make shots. Open shots! Look at Kobe’s 3-pt. shooting for example. He’s getting some wide open looks, but he’s just not making them at as high a percentage as he has in the past. The finger? Maybe. But then again, the rest of the team can’t hit their 3′s either!

    Anyway, since our shooting has plagued us all season, it probably can’t be fixed now, so let’s just hope that we can collectively get on a long hot streak thru the playoffs! We’re more than capable…

  36. I really have a problem with Brown’s game. He just dosen’t understand when to not shoot.

  37. Poor Kurt, another loss in the books this season, but I will take another Laker win for sure.

  38. Lakers officially in the playoffs. Time to start to get ready to defend the title

  39. Solid victory against a mediocre team. Should’ve blew them out the frame, but as I always say, @ this time of the year, a win is a win. Take them any way u can get them. 1 more game against inferior comp (Washington) on Sunday & then it’s “winning time” as the great Magic used to say.

    Major concern regarding Drew with the Strained Left Achilles Heel injury. MAJOR. Those injuries, depending on how severe, tend to linger on. Especially for a big man. Hopefully, after he’s re-evaluated 2morrow, we can receive some good news. Good sign was that he was able 2 walk off of the court under his own power, with a slight limp. Still n all, bad timing, considering the fact that we’re ’bout to go on a critical road trip after Sunday’s game. DAMN. Get well Drew, but pls, take your time. The ‘offs/June is where we need u most.

    Laker 4 Life ….. Go Hard Or Go Home

  40. Aw man, once Drew gets on a roll and asserts himself over a few games he picks up an injury. I really hope this doesn’t hamper and linger with him like the injuries vs Memphis he picked up in 08 and 09…