Lakers/Timberwolves: Sometimes Talent Is Enough

Darius Soriano —  April 9, 2010

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Coming into the game it was obvious that the Lakers had too much talent for the Timberwolves to handle over the course of an entire game.  Which, for a Lakers team that hasn’t put together a complete 48 minutes in some time, was the perfect combination of factors that led to this uninspiring win.  But, win the Lakers did and with the 97-88 victory the Lakers have now clinched the #1 seed in the Western Conference and have secured home court advantage through the Western Conference Finals.  So while it’s difficult to celebrate a lack luster game and an underwhelming victory, it’s not difficult to see the importance in what this game meant to the Lakers.  It’s never old hat to earn a #1 seed and this is now the third straight season that the Lakers have accomplished this feat.  For that, Lakers fans should be proud.

This game started out the way that you would think when one of the best teams in the league plays one of the worst.  The Lakers took control early and did so on the strength of Pau Gasol’s post game and the scoring of Ron Artest and Shannon Brown.  In the first period, Gasol scored 6 points on a couple of nice mid range jumpers while Artest and Brown showed off their outside shooting when each knocked down a three pointer.

But the game really turned for the Lakers in the 2nd quarter.  In the second twelve minutes the Lakers would blow this game open with a 31 point quarter while holding the ‘Wolves to only 17.  The Lakers forced turnover after turnover and turned Minnesota’s miscues into easy baskets and nice cushion.  Surprisingly, it was the bench that did most of the damage as Farmar, Sasha, and Mbenga led the charge.  The aggressiveness that defines Farmar’s game finally returned as he was active in the open court and confident with his outside shot.  And Sasha too seemed to have regained some of his lost swagger as he was knocking down outside shots, pestering players on defense with solid perimeter D and timely digs on post players, and capably initiating our sets when Farmar played off the ball.  And then there was DJ.  ’Congo Cash’ hustled on the glass, contested shots in the paint, and got interior buckets and tip ins when the defense got caught looking (all to the tune of a new career high of 11 points).  Really, it was nice to see our bench have productive stint – especially on the second night of a back to back.  By the time the starters came back into the game with a little under 6 minutes left in the half, the lead had reached double digits and the starters would then pile on and push the margin to 18 as the half closed.

But, it wouldn’t be a Lakers game (at least lately) if the other team didn’t make a run that made the game closer than it ever should have been.  Taking advantage of a lethargic defense and an undisciplined offense the ‘Wolves got out in transition, started making three pointers (Jonny Flynn had three triples in the period), and out hustled the Lakers on the offensive glass.  Led by Kevin Love’s beastly efforts on the backboards, Minnesota scrapped back and ultimately made the third quarter their own by outscoring the Lakers 31-22 and cutting LA’s lead to 9 going into the 4th period.

But in the end, it would not be enough for Minnesota.   Even though the ‘Wolves would get the the Lakers’ lead down to as little as 4 points against the taco unit, the talent gap was too large.  Gasol rained a couple of jumpers, Farmar continued his good shooting night, and Odom closed the game with an exclamation points of a long three pointer followed by a nice alley oop finger roll in the closing seconds.  And ultimately the game ended as it started, with the Lakers having too much talent and skill for Minnesota to match.  As I said earlier, it may not have been a great game or an inspiring win, but it’s a win all the same and it clinches the West’s top seed for the Lakers.  I’ll take it.

A couple of other notes on this one:

*I already mentioned Kevin Love’s rebounding prowess but it deserves another.  Love is one of the most natural rebounders I’ve ever seen.  There have been more impressive looking rebounders – Dennis Rodman, KG, and Moses Malone come to mind – but Love is just as effective as those guys.  Another 18 rebounds in this game for Love which brings his total in his last 6 games to 89 rebounds (14.3 average).  That average would lead the league by over a full rebound a game (Dwight Howard leads the NBA at 13.2 a game) if he could’ve replicated those numbers over the entire year (which I honestly believe is possible if he received the playing time).  The man is just a monster on the glass.  And to think, he’s only 21 years old.  I think he could easily do this for 12-14 more years just because he doesn’t rely on athleticism, but rather on positioning, timing, and instincts.

*Pau Gasol is really good.  I didn’t mention his stat line earlier, but he had another world class night with 29 points, 15 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 assists, and 4 blocks.  The only blemish on his stat line was his four turnovers, but most of those were late in the game where he was forcing cross court passes when he was getting crowed on the strong side post.  At least two of those passes were also the product of a awful player movement as everyone just stood around, expecting Pau to make a play.  The key to ensuring that those cross court passes don’t get stolen is to send a cutter through the paint to collapse the defense.  This way, the weakside wing gets drawn into the lane and that skip pass is easier.  Instead, Pau was making the right read, but the other players weren’t cooperating by doing their part.  This doesn’t relieve Pau of all blame – the passes weren’t the best ones he’s made – but there were reasons they ended up the way that they did.

*I really feel bad for Rambis.  It’s hard for me to tell if this team is bad because of personnel or if his coaching is really lacking but he’s in a tough spot.  I mean, I’ve disagreed with how he’s handled Love’s minutes (there was a point this season where Jefferson was out and he started Darko and Ryan Hollins while still bringing Love off the bench), but this is a young team and I think he’d be much better on a veteran team that had more experience dealing with the complexity of the schemes he’s trying to install.  I’m not sure if he would have ended up being the eventual successor to Phil, but it’s obvious that he has a great rapport with a lot of the current Lakers and I wish he could have stayed on with us rather than watch him struggle through these types of frustrating nights.  Did you see how PO’d he was when Lamar hit that three late in the game?  He really wanted this win and he doesn’t have the horses.  It’s a bit depressing.

Darius Soriano

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20 responses to Lakers/Timberwolves: Sometimes Talent Is Enough

  1. Darius, your dedication is inspiring.

  2. off topic
    lol @ blazers

    0:21 Nicolas Batum misses three point jumper
    0:20 Brandon Roy offensive rebound
    0:16 Brandon Roy misses three point jumper
    0:15 Nicolas Batum offensive rebound
    0:12 Rudy Fernandez misses three point jumper
    0:11 Brandon Roy offensive rebound
    0:07 Nicolas Batum misses 25-foot three point jumper

    then they were like…let’s go home…

  3. Dirk sinks a three, then tells him to “sit down”… hahaha that was a great game, but I bet Portland is mad as hell

  4. Looking at Spurs games away at Denver and Dallas it seems we will see them in the first round. This is my worst nightmare.

    Parker back aganist Fisher and Manu playing as he is with a new contract is not good.

    Add the fact that breakable Bynam will be out 2 weeks without working out and perhaps out of shape and touch and this could be a very tough series.

    I can hope for amazing games for Spurs but knowing that Dallas and Denver really need to win it dosen’t look good.

  5. When I looked up and the score was within 4, I thought, oh no… not again a loss to a team we should be taking apart. All was well again fairly soon and we now have the #1 seed in the West. Yeah, the Spurs in the 1st round is not good at all, but we will prevail no matter who we face, IMO.

  6. As of today there remain 3 candidates for the 8th seed.. (PHO owns tiebreakers with both POR/SAS)..

    OKC, POR, SAS. Who would you prefer? I vote OKC.

    POR @ LAL coming up means we have some influence on who our opponent may be. SAS has a tough schedule remaining while POR/OKC are finishing with a healthy diet of GSW/MEM.

    OKC @ POR will be interesting.

    POR Schedule
    @ LAL
    OKC
    GSW

    OKC Schedule
    @GSW
    @POR
    MEM

    SAS Schedule
    @DEN
    MIN
    @DAL

  7. Also POR 3-0 SAS this season.

    If SAS wins only the MIN game while POR loses to us and OKC.. we still get SAS.

  8. ReignOnParades April 9, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    I like that you wrote this up anyways despite everyone telling you not to. Playoff form.

    Speaking of which, is the plan seriously to work our way into form -during- the playoffs? I know injuries has a lot to do with it but damn

    Whooo boy I wish the West wasn’t so deep this year

  9. As long as we are speculating, I do hope that we get Portland in the first round.

    The Spurs are scary (Parker, Manu and You-Know-Who) and the Robber Barons have fresh young legs, a ton of confidence, and are too inexperienced to know that they should lose.

    All that said, it doesn’t matter who the Lakers play.

    The only team that beats the Lakers are the Lakers.

  10. i think milicic was a steal for the kind of price the wolves had to pay… good move.

  11. My boy Darko showed you what he looks like, AGAIN.

    13 points on 5-of-11 shooting, 9 rebounds 5 assists and 3 blocked shots (2 on Pau). And, he was the only player on his team with a + beside him (+7).

  12. Darius, now that the team is the #1 seed, I think it’s Ok to take a couple of games off to rest your mouse-finger for the playoffs. You can come back when Kobe does.

  13. I was wondering about offensive rebounding rate. Since it is more difficult to grab your own rebound after your own shot, shouldn’t offensive rebounding rate only be out of the shots that your teammates take? I believe it would be a more accurate measurement of rebounding skill. So, a player like Kevin love would actually have slightly inflated numbers because he’s in viable position more to grab rebounds off missed shots versus a Pau Gasol who shoots more. Given that we adjust for possessions played etc. What do you guys think?

  14. In terms of the 8 seed, I prefer POR (matchups/season defined by injuries), followed by OKC (inexperience, prob couldn’t win on the road), then SAS (remember that game last season in which Kobe said the Spurs knew the complexities of the Lakers offense better than his teammates?), but I still think that as poorly as the Lakers are playing, I’ll be surprised if we lost to any of those teams, so I would trade any divine influence I might have re: determining the 8th seed for keeping DAL and DEN at the 2 and 3 so we only have to see one of them to advance. I also think there’s a good chance DAL will beat DEN, which I see as a considerably more favorable matchup for the purple and gold.

    That said, I agree the Spurs look most likely at this point, unless they can somehow win tonight at Denver (a killer second half of a B2B).

  15. Michael Ricaldi April 10, 2010 at 11:27 am

    PLEASE IF BYNUM IS NOT PLAYING WELL IN THE FIRST GAME BACK BECAUSE OF HIS ANKLE. PLEASE REPLACE HIM WITH CONGO CASH!!!

  16. I’m starting to think that with the 08-09 season starting off with all the Kobe drama, the Bynum injuries, two runs to the finals, and having their two most important players running on very little break in the summer, maybe the Lakers are performing as poorly as they have due to a deep fatigue.

    Other then Artest and Shannon, the teams aught to understand the offense and get that running plays from inside out works best. The players are familiar with each other after most of them having played together, and in this system, 4-5 seasons. There have been a few tweaks to the team and while some players have naturally diminished, some still have room to grow- yet we are seeing slippage rather then growth.

    I don’t see Artest having better seasons then this one, although you can argue he might be more consistent with familiarity. Kobe, Lamar and Gasol should be able to sustain this level another couple of years. The Lakers might find themselves a few bit players to infuse an element here and there and Bynum should keep getting better. I mean really, that is where this team has room to grow.

    I haven’t given up on this season. Lots can happen. I’m just not seeing enough energy from this team to lead me to think they can tighten the screws and execute down the stretch of a game as it needs to against the best teams, Kobe heroics aside. I see more confusion then seems warranted by the experience and talent level. Obviously physical wear and tear is making itself felt but the mental aspects are glaring as well.

  17. Maybe if we play OKC some of their intensity will rub off on us…

  18. Hard to understand this but Spurs routed Denver. Great news! I don’t want to play Spurs this is great news.

  19. Lets recap the spurs big wins the past 3 weeks…

    April 10 @ Den
    Win 104 – 85 on a b2b

    April 4 @ LAL
    Win 100 – 81

    April 2 vs Orl
    Win 112 – 100

    March 28 @ Bos
    Win 94 – 73

    March 26 vs Cle
    Win 102 – 97

    March 22 @OKC
    Win 99 – 96

    The Spurs are definitely peaking at the right time.