Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  April 9, 2010

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Records: Lakers 55-23 (1st in West), Timberwolves 15-63 (last in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 108.9 (11th in NBA), Timberwolves 101.7 (29th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.5 (5th in NBA), Timberwolves 111.3 (28th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Shannon Brown, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn, Corey Brewer, Ryan Gomes, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic

Injury Updtaes, Magic Numbers, the Playoffs, & Seedings:  First of all, it looks like Kobe will not play again tonight.  Kobe’s right knee is the one that he’s had surgery on, the one that he has tendonitis in, and the one that he wears a sleeve over during the games.  So if he’s experiencing any discomfort or swelling in that knee I say rest him.  As for Bynum, he’s likely to see his first game action when the post season begins on April 18th.  This would actually put his recovery time right at the 4 week mark, which for those that have familiarity with this injury, is a reasonable timeline.  Hopefully he can find his game legs rather quickly when he does return.

And speaking of the playoffs, for those that concern themselves with such matters, the Lakers magic number to clinch the #1 seed in the Western Conference (which secures them home court advantage in playoff series through the WCF) is one.  One more win, no matter the opponent, is all the Lakers need to lock this down.  Coming into the season, this was a goal for the Lakers and it looks like they’ll achieve it either tonight or one night soon.  And while there were also larger regualar season goals (like having the best record in the entire league), I think it’s a great thing that for the third straight season the Lakers look to be the class of the West.  I’m sure many feel that should be a given based off the Lakers talent level, but remember that this team has had many a missed game due to injury to some of it’s best players and it’s not easy to take every team’s best shot as the defending champ. 

As for home court in the Finals (should the Lakers get that far) there have been questions about what would happen should the Lakers and Magic end up with the same regular season record (they have the same record as of today) and face off in the Finals?  I’ll let John Hollinger (insider) explain how it would play out:

There has been some confusion about how a tie would be settled in the event of a Lakers-Magic Finals rematch. The league office confirmed for me this morning that since the two teams split their regular-season series, the tie would be decided by record against the opposite conference. That tiebreaker would favor the Lakers, who are 22-8 against the East, while the Magic are 20-10 versus the West.

Obvously, this is a long way off and there are no guarantees that either team makes it that far.  But, this is important information for many so that question is now answered.

The Timberwolves Coming in:  This season can’t end soon enough for the ‘Wolves.  After pulling out a win on March 31st against the Kings to avoid a winless month of March (can you imagine losing every game but one in an entire month?!), the ‘Wolves are back to their losing ways dropping their last three.  This is a squad that is poorly constructed and has not adapted well to the schemes that Kurt Rambis has installed.  Combined with the fact that Rambis (an old Laker favorite of mine) has made curious rotation decisions – especially surrounding Kevin Love – and this ‘Wolves team is one that could easily be labled the worst in the entire league.  Sure, the Nets have less wins, but the ‘Wolves have been even worse then New Jersey for the past month.  Just a bad, bad year for Minnesota.

As for tonight’s game, Al Jefferson is “questionable” due to personal reasons and may not play in this contest.  If Jefferson does in fact miss the game, the Wolves will start Love and Darko in the front court like they did against the Warriors two nights ago when the Dubs won the game that got Nellie the all time wins record.  A game, by the way, where Love made his case for more playing time by scoring 17 points on 9 shots and pulling down 18 rebounds (including 5 on the offensive glass).  Tell me again why this kid has only started 21 games of the 56 that he’s played in this year?

Timberwolves Blogs:  Check out Howlin’ T-Wolf and Canis Hoopus for all the latest news and notes on the ‘Wolves.

Keys to game:  Even though the Lakers are playing one of the worst teams in the league, it should be noted that this is the second game of a back to back where the Lakers likely did not arrive into Minnesota until very early this morning after coming off a hard fought game last night.  Also understand that becuase neither Kobe and Bynum played  last night, that some of our players played heavy minutes – especially Artest (38) and Pau (43).  When you combine all of this with a 5:00pm start time (PST) I would not be surprised to see the Lakers come out a bit sluggish to start the game and for them to have less than stellar energy for the entire contest.  If there was one night were strong performances were needed from some of our backups, this game would be it.

As for strategy, the Lakers should play to their strengths and attack the biggest defensive weaknesses in the ‘Wolves starting lineup.  That means an agressive Odom against Kevin Love and an active Artest against Ryan Gomes.  Neither of the two ‘Wolves excel on defense and will have probmlems staying  with both LO and Artest off the dribble and on the perimeter.  Also, going into Pau is always key, but tonight I’d like to see Pau have continued success with his mid range jumper.  Darko is a solid low post defender and Pau may have issues banging with him on the block.  So, I’d instead like to see Pau take Milicic out to the mid post where he can turn and face and then either shoot his short jumper or attack him off the dribble.

On defense, the Timberwolves’  only major offensive threat is Jefferson so if he misses tonight’s game the Lakers defensive schemes will not be as heavily tested.  That said, the ‘Wolves still have some strengths that will need to be accounted for.  Mainly, I’m talking about low post scoring and offensive rebounding.  Both Love and Milicic are capable scorers on the low block and both are also very good offensive rebounders.  And considering that Minnesota is such a poor shooting team, there will be many chances for them to grab their own misses.  If the Lakers can limit them to one shot, this game will be a lot easier. 

When marking Love, he is great at using his wide body to back down defenders and then using a step back or fadeaway jumper to score inside.  Love is also a capable shooter all the way out to the three point line so he’s not a player that can be left alone out there (I’m looking at you Odom).  As for Darko, he’s a player that relies heavily on his jumphook and he will take it with both hands and from both sides of the block.  Pau/Mbenga/Powell must fight him for position and make him go to the middle of the floor where he can’t rely on the window to cushion his shots.

Also understand that Minnesota plays at the third fastest pace in the league, which places them ahead of Phoenix and Denver.  This team wants to run and take advantage of the athletes that they have on their roster.  On the second night of a back to back, transition defense will be key and the Lakers must make a concerted effort to slow the ball in transition to allow everyone else to get back and set up the half court defense.

We all understand that this should be a win.  The last time the Lakers faced this team, it litterally only took 20 minutes of playing hard to secure a win.  But in that game, Minnesota kept the game close and made a couple of good runs (especially in the third quarter after Bynum strained his achilles) that had some folks wondering if the game would go down to the wire.  Let’s not allow that to be the case this evening.  Understanding that there are factors (mentioned above) that could keep this game tight does not mean that it must be.  The Lakers, even without Kobe and Bynum are better than this team. By a lot.  Let’s go out and get the win that secures the #1 seed in the West.

Where you can watch:  5:00pm start time in the west on KCAL.  Also on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

Posts

70 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Warren, let’s go get it

  2. ReignOnParades April 9, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Someone floated out the theory (i.e. baseless speculation) that they can’t cut into Al Jeff’s minutes because he is the grumpy franchise player, and they want to make Darko feel as great as humanly possible about his stay in ‘Sota so that he can go back to Europe and talk up how good the T-Wolves treated him, and perhaps convince guys like Rubio to sign on. The odd man out is a guy who never complaints and is professional about everything: Kevin Love

    Again, baseless speculation, but I think it makes a lot of sense and because it’s funny I -want- it to be true

  3. Kevin Love will get his minutes. Still in his sophomore season, and he had the hand injury.

    If he keeps working on that 3 pointer over the summer, Love will be talked about as an All Star next season. He won’t get there for another year or two (guys like Dirk, Melo and that Gasol dude will still be in his way) but he will get there eventually.

    I really wish that the Lakers had been able to grab him somehow. And, I wish that he was #69. I mean, seriously, how many “LOVE 69″ jerseys would you be able to sell?

    Just sayin…

  4. I know that the Lakers play as a team has been disappointing as of the last few months, but I would have to agree with those that feel that last night’s lost really isn’t that bad. From all the articles and links on the game, I’m getting the impression that POSSIBLY and contrary to everyone who think that Phil blew the game last night, I think that it was part of Phil’s strategy ensure better odds at winning the chip.

    Bare with me on this…just some theories and thoughts:

    1. Phil wants to rest Kobe, who’s having knee issues and who’s played way too many minutes this season.

    2. Since the line-up of the West is so tight, the Lakers actually can affect the standings and have some leverage over determining their 1st round opponent unlike past seasons. There was some piece on TH linking to a Utah article on how Phil is trying to help the Nuggets out by letting them win to avoid having to play them until the WCF, which makes sense. Maybe Phil figures that matching up with the Thunder is better for the Lakers than against the Blazers or Spurs.

    3. Phil has plenty of playoff experience and understands that match-ups affect team’s chances and Phil has always been one to manipulate situations, so I wouldn’t put it pass him to not care about the loss since it would potentially help the Lakers out in the end.

    4. The loss to Denver was another one of Phils mind games to avoid giving the Nuggets any confidence in the win going into the POs. If Lakers win without Kobe and Drew, that’s a great confidence booster for a team that has been totally underperforming. If they lose, it’s almost expected since there’s no Kobe and Drew, undermining any Nuggets confidence in thinking that they can beat the Lakers. And since the Lakers nearly beat the Nugs last night, it’s actually a win in taking away some of the confidence the Nugs have in believing that they can beat the Lakers.

    5. Since the Lakers only need one more win to secure the no. 1 seed, it makes sense to win it tonight against a team that is out of playoffs and has no bearing on the standings.

    What do folks think?

  5. @2 That’s an nteresting theory…

    Feel bad for Rambis and the T-Wolves, but Lakers need to get a W.

    Corey Brewer’s been getting a bit of spotlight lately for his franchise record and improvement this season.
    http://www.nba.com/timberwolves/wolves/brewers_blend_mip_100330.html
    Hollywood really rubbed off on Rambis.
    I’ll be interested to watch how he does, he seems kinda the anti-Ron – 6’9 at 185lbs… didn’t know players that skinny existed in the NBA.

  6. I like how the NBA Postseason begins on my birthday… thanks for the present, NBA!

  7. ReignOnParades April 9, 2010 at 5:23 pm

    Lakers have a backcourt of Fish/Brown right now, along with Artest, Lamar, and Gasol.

    Brown is playing so much more competently next to Fish instead of Farmar

    This is just an excuse to bring up the points I brought up in this thread:

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/04/09/lakersnuggets-a-missed-opportunity/#comments

  8. lol@boston

  9. Kevin Love: 5 Rebounds out of the 25 Total Rebounds available in that quarter.

    I think that a 20% Rebound Rate is good, yeah?

    We need to get Bynum some tapes of the work that Love does BEFORE the shot. His hustle and activity level are spectacular.

  10. Wizards are destroying the Celtics right now… It’s getting very ugly early for Boston at home

  11. ANybody have a link?
    Thanks!

  12. At a boy Sasha. Keep it going for a couple more months and we’ll forget all about these last two bad seasons.

    http://p2p4u.net/watch/15803/1/watch-los-angeles-lakers-vs-minnesota-timberwolves.html

  13. I really hope this is the clincher tonight. Gasol could greatly benefit to use some rest too.

  14. I just got home because my subway train was stalled. How do we look so far? What’s been going on to get the lead?

  15. Karl 14- We’d have to put on one of the worst 2nd half performances of all time to let this one get away from us. Derek is picking guys off at half court for goodness sakes!

    Darius- The Wolves aren’t putting up a fight as we’ve been on fast breaks most of the second quarter. Our defense is looking godly against this B league team. Also, our bench guys (especially DJ and Sasha) are doing a phenomenal job this game. I’d like to say we got tis one in the bag.

  16. so so game so far..sasha 3rd leading scorer with 7?! i think bryant intimidates him

  17. GO AMMO!

  18. Everyone playing good. Except Fishs shooting, Another 0 for 4. Might be the worst shooter at this point in Laker guard history.

    Boy are wolves not playing hard for Rambis. Wonder why?

  19. BrooklynBoyKP April 9, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    I was excited about Adam Morrisson before the season, not so much anymore, but he had a decent first half.
    Nice to see the Lakers dominating but even better I like the effort, Artest diving into the broadcasting table was very impressive.

  20. Nice Ken, way to make a negative post in the midst of what has been a feel good first half.

    Loved the Artest hustle play that resulted in a spilled beverage on Stu.

  21. Wow subway train! We don’t get many of those here in Newport Beach.

    Where do you live Darius?

  22. You’re not planning to come and hunt me down, are you Ken?

  23. BrooklynBoyKP April 9, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    Anybody else see the score of the Celtics game, The Wizards are murdering them

  24. Sorry Bobji my tongue in cheek attempts at humor are often not as cute as a think they are.

    Actually Fisher is playing a excellent defensive and passing game tonight.

  25. No I think you do a outstanding job Darius.

    Just wondered.

  26. I feel pretty bad for Rambis. The T’Wolves front office made a mess of what could have been an OUTSTANDING draft for them.

    Well, they get a solid chance this summer to do better.

  27. I was only kidding Ken. I live in the Bay Area. My BART train had to pause for a while for some reason.

    This third quarter has been totally uninspiring. LO’s looked good on a couple of drives but getting some stops would be nice.

  28. This Laker team is hard to understand.

    More fundamental errors them one would expect.

    You never know what to expect.

    Kind of a mirror of LO.

    By the way Fish is 2 for 17 last 6 quarters.

  29. what is happening to the lead?????

  30. #30. The Lakers look how they looked the last time they played the ‘Wolves. They’re shooting the first available three and not hustling on defense. Even though the lead has been cut in half, this game still isn’t close. Yet.

    Oh, and btw, Kevin Love is a monster on the glass.

  31. Ken,
    We might have to research this. But this could be becoming the worst year ever put together by a Lakers starting PG.

  32. Ok first half nice – 3rd quarter ridonkulous. How is this even playoff caliber? Yes, kobe and bynum are out but come on – lakers playing the 2nd worst team in the league. Get that lead back up and win by 20+.

  33. I can’t watch the game. Why is Sasha out when he’s finally shooting – 3 for 3 on the stats.

  34. Well i go back to the days of Gail Goodrich and I can’t remember worse.

    He is down to 36% and really stepped up with Kobe out.

    2 for 17

  35. ReignOnParades April 9, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Derek Fisher is playing laughably, inexcusably bad.

    I’ve REFUSED to let his play over the last 1.5 odd seasons tarnish what he did for us the decade prior

    But good god, you need to make yourself defensible Fish. I can’t talk about you “running the offense” and making good decisions when you freaking take these PUJIT, call your own number at inappropriate times to justify your minutes, and let Jonny ****ing Flynn who is shooting .420/.350 from the field light us up.

    My last (justifiable) recourse is to bash your potential replacements because Farmar is kind of an idiot and Brown is a 2 guard and Sasha sucks.

    I said this just yesterday:

    “I’m of the mind that if Fish brings about an apocalyptic end to anyone’s season I still like the odds that it’ll be another team’s and not ours. Just remember that during his worst struggles (04 when he played behind GP, Utah, the end of last year) he produced some of the best moments (.4, his return against the Spurs after his daughter had an operation, 2009 Finals 3 pointers)”

    THERE BETTER BE SOME WALKING ON WATER TYPE MIRACLES FROM FISH THIS POSTSEASON.

  36. Love has 16 of 71 available rebounds through the 3rd quarter. That is a 22% Rebound Rate.

    And, that is NOT taking into account the minutes he has been on the bench.

    Love is a beast.

    Whoever gets him in the inevitable T’Wolves trade in the next year or two will be getting a gem.

  37. i sure hope Phil dosen’t coach us into another loss like last night.

    Get the C team off the court Phil!

    Pau, Ron, LO back in before we give them the idea they can win.

    I just edited that DJ is a B not C

  38. BrooklynBoyKP April 9, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    You guys remember that piece about Mbenga/Congo Cash. Remember them talking about the cash jumper I’m still not sure if they were joking because I can’t remember the last time Mbenga hit a jumper and he does take a lot of them when he is in.

  39. Wow, Farmar-Sasha-Walton-Powell-DJ. Taco Unit getting some early time tonight.

  40. DJ is our best bench player!

  41. 4th air ball for sasha in 2 games

    I swear Phil is going to blow this game.

    Get those guys out.

    NOW!

  42. wow – i think pj is really trying to lose this game. what’s up? too much zen for me. No wonder this team has no clue!!

  43. ReignOnParades April 9, 2010 at 7:03 pm

    Looking at the box score Fish’s played ess than 20 minutes and I was a little harsh on him there but I was eating dinner with my family and every time I looked up Fish was bricking a shot and making me angry

    Angry enough that I needed to vent that on the Internet

  44. i am getting sick of brown shooting. sad when DJ has nearly the best stat line.

  45. What a joke! These guys seriously have no clue! Sadly, if they somehow squeak out a win, they’ll probably be popping the champagne.

  46. cAN SOMEONE TELL ME THAT THIS LOOKS LIKE A WELL COACHED TEAM.

    Please someone!

  47. I’m putting this to a vote. Win or lose, do you guys want a recap for this one? A simple yes or no will do.

  48. No thanks Darius. Why waste your energy on these guys. Wait for the playoffs.

  49. No. (Unless it focuses on the only things that made the game worth watching… Gasol for the Lakers and Love for the T’Wolves.)

  50. How in the heck can any fan say that this is a championship caliber team? WOW!!!!

  51. No, I know you said simple but I got to say I’ve watched just about every game minus a Nets second half blowout and I got to say this game ain’t worth a recap. It’s not even worth being put in a recycle been.

  52. No thanks, Darius. I think making you recap the game would be an insult to all the work you put into this site.

  53. Here i will do it for you.

    Lakers on the backs of Pau and Dj ekked out a win over the worst team in the NBA.

    And Fisher missed 6more shots.

    And Lakers win the number one seed.

    Done. Go have a cigar Darius.

  54. On a side note, I don’t want to go on some rant because it’s Friday and I’m in a good mood, but it’s games like this why Phil likes veterans that know how to play the game. During the Lakers three-peat and on Phil’s Bulls’ teams he had guys like Fox, Horry, Grant, Shaw, Fisher, Kerr, Paxon, Armstrong, Longley, and even lesser players like Wennington/Buecheler/Brown. Guys like that ran the offense and were all about execution. This current Lakers team has guys with talent on the bench (Farmar and Brown do have some talent) but they don’t have that discipline to execute every time down. That lack of execution hurts our ability to score and to stop the other team because Triangle principles dictate both the flow of the ball on offense but also floor spacing and balance that sets up defensive transition.

    Anyways. Nothing, personnel wise, is going to change with this team until next season so this isn’t a topic for now. It’s just a thought.

  55. I vote no on a recap

  56. I completly agree Darius. If either of those guys played with their heads and ran the offense we would not be having this Fish problem. They didn’t so we make do with what we have which is pretty great when you consider we could falling Timber fans.

    Congrat to all Laker fans for making through so far. Now the real fun starts.

  57. Yes to a recap!!

  58. No on recap Darius.

    Great to see Gasol playing up to his all-world status last few games -
    Numbers for Last 5 Games 41-72 FG, 35-45 FT, 12.45 Reb, 23.4 Pts

  59. #58. You’re behind in the voting R. My sense of duty is coming on though…

  60. Maybe a little Pau-is-great-post at least?:D

    /Andreas the Pau-lover

  61. No recap necessary.

    On a side note… I had to do a double take… Shaun Livingston had a line of 25 pts, 7 assists, 6 boards, and 2 steals in a win against the Celtics. wow.

  62. Do what feels right Darius.

    baffled that the lead got down to 4

    but hey look at the game – Sasha was 3-3 in the first half, Lakers were up 18. In the second half, he was 0-3 (2 airballs), and Minnesota was eating into the lead. Thus, one can ascertain that the best barometer for Laker level of play is Sasha’s performance.

    ok seriously though
    good game DJ ! new career high in points, well deserved as he’s played well in his last few appearances.

  63. I vote yes on recap. It should go something like this.

    Title: The Lakers Won; No One Cares.

    Body: See Title.

  64. Does anyone care about getting the #2 seed overall? If we rest our players and lose a game, we will be without HCA against the Magic (assuming it’s a repeat of the Finals last year).

    Also, did anyone notice that the Spurs lost today vs. Memphis and are now 1 game behind OKC and Portland. The Spurs have 2 road games left vs. Denver and Dallas. While the other teams don’t have much competition.

    Looks like it’s going to be Lakers vs. Spurs in the first round.

    Wow.

  65. nice one zephid. nice one!

    and don’t forget a kukoc on that reliable bulls supporting cast. yes he bricked and missed but at least he had established a reputation. he had some hot scoring (not just shooting) runs too. i remember his 2games against the jazz finals. lamar is in that light the same if he comes off the bench in the playoffs. plus he could do so much more than what toni did for chicago.

    in the end, kobe didn’t play. al didn’t play. boston is in a deeper hole. we got 1st seed west, and hey cleveland is beatable without lebron. BLASPHEMY!

    good to see tiger in roaring form.

    GO LAKERS!

  66. Darius,

    You’ve done more than enough. There’s no need to recap (more or less) meaningless outings like this one. If you really feel guilty, try for a one-paragraph summary of the game. And if you don’t have time at any point (even in the playoffs), that’s not a bad idea to turn to.

  67. Well, I decided to recap the game anyways. My dedication is unwavering. ;) It’ll be up soon.

  68. Cool a game recap tonight…

  69. Game recap is up. I couldn’t help myself. I decided my frozen yogurt could wait.

    http://www.forumblueandgold.com/2010/04/09/lakerstimberwolves-sometimes-talent-is-enough/