Lakers/Timberwolves: That Still Counts As A Win, Right?

Darius Soriano —  November 9, 2010

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If I spent as much time writing this recap as the Lakers spent playing good basketball against the Timberwolves on Tuesday night, it would last about three more sentences.  However, since you demand more of me than that, I will give this my all.

In a contest that was as strange to watch as any win I can think of off the top of my head, the Lakers outlasted the Timberwolves 99-94 to improve their record to 8-0.  And really, the win is the only positive I’ll choose to really take from this game.  Because for most of the evening, the Lakers just didn’t look interested in playing winning basketball.  I hate to say a bunch of negative things after a win, but tonight this is where we are.

Nearly every positive thing the Lakers did was counter balanced by something that they did not do correctly.  For example:

*Kobe Bryant scored 33 points and on many possessions looked to be the dangerous scorer that we’ve come to know and love.  His jumper was falling, his first step was executed quickly and with purpose, and he hit many shots that had me simply shaking my head they were so deadly in their efficiency.  But that was mostly the first half.  Then the second half came and things turned for him as shots got forced and he hunted foul calls rather than good looks for his teammates.  On the night he needed 28 shots to get those 33 points and when looking at his night on the whole, he seemed more interested in getting his own offense than helping his teammates get theirs.  At one point in the game, Kobe had taken 21 shots and the next closest Laker had taken 9.  This type of shot distribution reminded me of last season where the offense didn’t run as smoothly, with the result being that the Lakers often needed late game heroics in order to pull out a win.  Tonight didn’t require those heroics, but the feeling was the same.

*The Lakers, in some ways, were very active on defense.  They forced 25 turnovers and turned those miscues into 23 points.  They got their hands in passing lanes (9 steals) and pressured ball handlers into making careless mistakes either with their dribble or on a pass.  However, that activity did not carry over to their defensive backboards as they gave up a whopping 26 offensive rebounds to the ‘Wolves (including an astounding 11 to Kevin Love alone).  Often times the Lakers were simply outworked on the glass and even though the ‘Wolves only shot 38% from the floor (missing 57 shots), they were able to stay in the game because they turned so many trips on offense that should have been one and dones into 2nd and 3rd chances to get a single bucket.

Those are just two examples of how the Lakers were both bringing and taking things off the table the entire night, but there are many more examples in what was, again, just a puzzling game to endure.

What struck me as most strange about the game were the closing minutes.  After wrestling with the ‘Wolves all night, the Lakers finally staked out a lead late in the 4th quarter.  But with the lead in hand and only needing to pull off the equivalent of a victory formation and three kneel downs in an NFL game, the Lakers got loose with the ball and quick with their shot attempts to allow Minnesota to stay within striking distance.  On twitter I mentioned that the Lakers acted like they were playing from behind even though they had the lead.  For such a smart, veteran team that typically shows a lot of discipline the Lakers baffled me with how they handled this stretch.

In the end, though, they pulled out the win.  And really, that’s all that matters in this results driven league.  On a night where the Heat blew a 22 point first half lead (and an 8 point cushion in the final 33 seconds) to lose in overtime and the Pacers only missed one shot in an entire quarter (going 20-21 and scoring 54 points in the process), I guess more bizarre things and worse results could have occurred.  The Lakers may have allowed a 20-20 game from Love, but they still won the game on the backs of Kobe and Gasol (who had a quietly effective 18 point, 10 rebound game) as it has been for most of the year.  This surely wasn’t a contest that the Lakers will throw on the highlight reel at the end of the season, but the win counts just as much as the demolition of Portland from Sunday.  So while we’re all left a bit unsatisfied with the victory, I think we can all agree it’s better than the alternative.

Darius Soriano

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20 responses to Lakers/Timberwolves: That Still Counts As A Win, Right?

  1. sorry, i hate to bring up the mia utah game, but does anyone else find it weird that the last play of the game in OT had both james and wade going AWAY from the inbounds?

    can we start the riley for spoelstra rumors already?

  2. Pretty funny NBA twitter stuff from Simmons:
    http://twitter.com/sportsguy33

    Kevin Love notches 23 pts + 24 rebs (11 off) in Minny’s loss to the Lakers. Even the Chilean miners were less trapped. #freekevinlove
    less than 10 seconds ago via ÜberTwitter

    Paul Millsap had a great game, but there’s no way he would have dropped 46 on Miami if Udonis Haslem was still alive.
    about 2 hours ago via ÜberTwitter

    “What should I do? Should I continue to pretend it’s fun to be a decoy on someone else’s team if we’re not that good? Should I disappear?”
    about 3 hours ago via ÜberTwitter

  3. The difference between Kobe and everyone else is that Kobe in ‘slacker’ mode will still drop 33 points on you. Yes, he will leave his man open for a few wide open looks, but he NEVER fails to show up the way mere mortals do.

  4. Tonight’s game was really reflective of Lamar Odom. He struggled with fouls all night and when he was on the floor he struggled with Love even more. Love dominated Odom all night on the glass and Odom wasn’t giving the Lakers anything on the other end. Odom’s only stretch of good play was the final few minutes when the Lakers put the game away and I don’t believe it is a coincidence.

    Both of the Lakers less than stellar performances against Toronto and Minnesota were largely the result of the Lakers failing to control the boards. Against Toronto it was Gasol not grabbing a rebound until the second half and tonight it was Love making Odom look like Brian Cook trying to rebound.

  5. 20 shots in a row the Pacers made, pretty hard to play defense that bad but the Nuggets must have been special

  6. Someone may have mentioned this already but Jerry West is finally getting that long-deserved statue, after all he’s done for the franchise. That’s really great news. We’ve had a lot of legends come through this franchise, but none have them have helped bring success to a franchise for half a century.

    Somewhere, Jerry West is sitting gnawing on his fingernails and wondering how the statue unfolding will go wrong.

  7. 1. Two months from now, no one will remember how we won, only that we won. Even more when the playoffs come. I’ll take an ugly win over a pretty loss.

    2. Miami still not living up to the hype. And why do they keep giving the last shot to House when the game is on the line? Don’t they have that Dwayne-something guy on their team, who’s supposed to be pretty good in the clutch?

  8. Didnt fire up the laptop last night to watch the game, glad I didnt have to endure this tooth pulling. So from reading recap Kobe was in hero mode last night, and forgot about everyone else. During the course of the year you can expect Kobe trying to do something special against lesser talent to further his legacy as the greatest player in the game. Last night seemed to be a prime example of #24 knowing that Minn had a slim to no chance of beating LA so he wanted to shine. I have no problem with this as long as its against the bottom feeders of the league and not the likes of Boston, Miami, or Orlando.

    I did watch a little of the Miami v Utah, the ending was definitely worth admission price. But as I was watching the game I was wondering why more teams dont play zone on D against MIami. The dribble drives by both Wade and Bron almost guarentee them a trip to the line on every possesion, so why not turn them into jump shooters by packing the lane. Their best outside shooter is sitting on the bench in street clothes, and their best inside presence is an overpaid/overrated jump shooting PF.

  9. At least we don’t have Chris Bosh as our power forward.

  10. Great write-up, Darius as always. With the effort the Lakers put in they didn’t deserve to win. Maybe in the long run a defeat would’ve served them better. This just feeds into their ego that they just have to show up to win.

    I guess on some nights the effort is directly proportional to the level of competition. Utah proved that last night. The Lakers need some motivation. Maybe Phil should “guarantee” they will surpass the 72 win mark…

    JLV

  11. “Fans near courtside included director Michael Bay, Tyrese Gibson, Mario Lopez and George Lopez.”

    Wow, even the array of celebrities was lackluster.

  12. I was kind of curious why Phil chose to have Caracter inactive last night. I know it’s a tough choice when Luke is healthy and needs some playing time to knock the rust off. They probably also wanted Sasha available.

    But, I’d almost want to deactivate Sasha and give Caracter the burn against a high rebounding team like Minny. They also don’t have a lot of long lanky guys that would have given him a lot of problems.

    I think last night would have been an ideal situation for Caracter to attack the boards as he does so well and also operate in the post against Minny’s second unit. Or even paired with Pau or LO against Minny’s starters.

    Caracter would have been nimble enough to keep up with Love out to the 3 point line. It also would have been a good battle between the two of them on the boards and in the pivot.

    Oh well, games last night remind me that any win is good, especially if the players can walk away healthy. Ugly, but you take it.

  13. Kobe forcing shots wasn’t nearly as big of a problem as our lack of defensive intensity and our inability to at least be competitive on the defensive glass. It was about hustle more than it was about offensive execution. I don’t see this affecting the way we play in Denver on Thursday because I can see the guys being more motivated. I’m really not taking away much from this game. I’ve begun to expect this kind of focus against terrible teams from the Lakers.

  14. @12 I also found it curious that Caracter was inactivated last night considering he played decent against Portland. With Fish, Blake, Brown and even Odom shooting the 3 so well Sasha value drops to nearly zero in my opinion. Personally, I would rather give Caracter mins to develop b/c he gives us something we don’t have outside of Pau (and Bynum when he returns) – a post player who can score with his back to the basket.

    …not that it matters but I find it funny that Hollinger STILL has Miami ranked #1 despite having the same number of losses as the Cavs who the media tried to portray as having an awful supporting cast when they flamed out against Boston

  15. @12, 14: And, putting Caracter in the game last night would have let him get some up close burn against Kevin Love, which could only be good for him.

    It always surprises me to see the mid-level talents (Love, Barnes, Rambis back in the day) work and run and generally hustle their asses off to be successful, and then see the big talents be lazy and lackluster in the same game.

    I mean, don’t you see how much the effort matters?

    One of the many reasons I love watching Kobe, he is one of those rare incredibly talented guys that hustles like a scrapper trying to make the twelfth spot on the roster.

  16. The lack of intensity is one thing (that happens in a long season, and we know it happens with this team), but the lack of execution is what gets to me. Once it got to about 4 minutes left, they seemed to completely throw out any semblance of a real offense – going to clear-outs and jacked up shots. This, in the absolutely perfect situation to run the triangle deep into the shot clock in order to get high percentage looks.

    With Kobe declaring intelligence as one of the primary themes for this year, it’s disappointing to see them play with so little.

  17. @9 (Paul) Careful, or else Aaron will comment and put forth all his reasons why Miami is still the #1 team…LOL.

  18. It looks like the Wolves listened to Rambis tonight. They killed the lakers with their transition, their pg penetration was pretty effective (I was surprised how many times telfair would penetrate, then hold up, just to see how the defense reacted) and they rebounded pretty well. I also read the LA Times that Magic gave the Wolves a pregame speech. darko missed some bunnies but he looks like a lot of wasted money. wonder whose idea was that to sign him?

  19. Poor LBJ, he just needs a decent supporting cast and then all will be well …

    Oh wait, that’s last year’s excuse (and the year before).

    Guess he’s going for another kind of three-peat …