Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  November 19, 2010

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Records: Lakers 10-2 (3rd in West), Timberwolves 4-9 (12th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 117.3 (1st in NBA), Timberwolves 101.6 (27th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 107.5 (19th in NBA), Timberwolves 110.4 (26th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Lamar Odom, Pau Gasol
Timberwolves: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Injuries: Lakers: Andrew Bynum (out), Theo Ratliff (out); Timberwolves: Jonny Flynn (out), Martell Webster (out), Nikola Pelovic (out)

The Lakers Coming in:  Two straight wins and some strong, professional play is what’s been presented so far this road trip.  The Lakers poured it on late against the Bucks and early against Pistons and the team has seemingly bounced back from last week’s mishaps against the Suns and Nuggets. 

Minutes played by the front court continue to be a concern and before Wednesday’s game, Phil Jackson specifically referenced Gasol’s heavy load as a worry moving forward.  Games like the one against Detroit (where Pau only played 33 minutes) will help ease Pau’s burden, but getting another big to soak up some minutes is still a front burner issue.  As we’ve mentioned, don’t expect a flashy signing but rather the type of guy that will practice hard, play when needed, and be happy with an unguaranteed deal that will quickly be voided when Bynum returns. (So, sorry Dampier supporters.  That description doesn’t fit the still unsigned big man.)

On a side, but related note, Bynum’s potential return date is now listed as sometime around the middle of December.  If you hadn’t noticed, that’s a bit of a delay from the original timeline put out by the team.  Just as we mentioned yesterday, when it comes to Bynum no timeline is really accurate and I think we should all operate under the “I’ll believe it when I see it” mantra.  Again, when he’s back, he’s back.  Until then the Lakers will have to find ways to make it work.  If that means signing another big or playing Caracter through the typical ups and downs of a rookie big man, so be it.  This team still takes the long term view on most things and this should be no different.

The Timberwolves Coming in:  It was only 10 days ago that these Wolves faced the Lakers and in the time since that match up this team is playing well.  They’re 3-2 in that stretch and even in their losses they’ve played much better ball.  They’ve scored over a 100 points in all 5 contests and they’re really getting inspired performances from some of their guys – especially Kevin Love and Michael Beasley. 

In the last 4 games, Love has been outright beastly as he’s averaged a shade over 24 points and nearly 18 rebounds each night.  And in that run he had an amazing 31 point, 31 rebound effort against the Knicks that, needless to say, was a game for the ages as no player had put up a 30/30 game since Moses Malone.  Pretty good company there.  Then there’s Beasley who is finding his groove as a go to scorer and starting to fulfill his potential as the guy taken #2 in his draft class as a dynamic scorer and rebounder.  In Beasley’s last 5 games he’s not been below 25 points once and has put up 30 or more three times, including a high of 42.  His rebounding is still only average, but that’s to be somewhat expected when he’s playing SF and is sharing the front court with a rebounding machine in Kevin Love.

Overall this team is one that, while not quite on the rise, is getting back to a competitive level that’s been absent for the past several years.  If they continue to improve they’ll surely win more games but maybe even more important can potentially be that “tough out” team that no one really likes to face.  They’re not there yet, but they’re inching in that direction.  And once they do get there, confidence will come and that’s when the wins will follow.  They’re definitely building something and for that I give them credit.  Yes, even Kaaaaahhhhhhhn.

Timberwolves Blogs:  A Wolf Among Wolves is putting up great work everyday.  Between Benjamin Polk, Zach Harper, and Myles Brown it’s doubtful there’s better content on the ‘Wolves anywhere.

Keys to game:  So far I’ve mentioned that the Wolves are playing much better and that the Lakers are playing strong, professional basketball.  Despite all that, let’s just say I have my concerns about this game.  This is the third game in four nights and the last game of a road trip.  And while the ‘Wolves are playing better, they’re still a team that the Lakers could easily look past.  So, be forewarned that a slug-fest may be on the docket tonight.

If the Lakers are to avoid that scenario, playing hard would be the first step but playing smart is a close second.  Taking care of the ball and attacking with a focused, disciplined offensive approach will go a long way towards the Lakers starters icing their knees in the fourth quarter rather than looking to put the game on ice with FT’s in the closing minutes.

First and foremost that means a patient and deliberate attack from Kobe.  Ten days ago Kobe decided he would try to beat the Wolves mostly on his own early and it led to a night where he more than doubled any of his teammate’s shot attempts.  Tonight there should be better ball and shot distribution in order to capitalize on all the Lakers’ match up advantages and not just the one that Kobe has.  Get the ball inside to Pau against Darko and to Odom at the top of the circle and mid post against Kevin Love so both bigs can go to work.  If Kobe deems having the ball in his hands is necessary, he can run some P&R or back down his man from the mid-post but I’d like to see him be a willing passer in those situations rather than looking for his shot first. 

Defensively, there are two keys tonight: get back in transition and control the defensive glass.  Minnesota really tried to push the pace in the last match up and got up 92 shots (to the Lakers 89) even though they had 25 turnovers on the evening.  Those quick shots led to long rebounds that the Wolves turned into second and third possessions when they hauled in 26(!) offensive rebounds.  The third defensive key for the Lakers is simply caring more by paying closer attention to detail.  That means closing out on shooters and not giving up such easy penetration to Minnesota’s guards and wings.  In the last game the Lakers allowed too many driving lanes which then forced big men to help thus weakening their defensive rebounding. 

I can’t say this enough, but tonight’s game is one where the Wolves will be looking to get the win they didn’t 10 days ago and if the Lakers are lax in effort they just may get it.  However, if the Lakers that played the Pistons show up, this game could be over by the time the 3rd quarter begins.  The choice is theirs.  Let’s hope they make the right one. 

Where you can watch: 5pm start time out West on KCAL.  Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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69 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. This 1 is 4 WARREN!

  2. I am really looking forward to the Beasley vs. Artest match up tonight. Beasley has been awesome as of late and will have lots of confidence. Looking for Artest to shut this young pup down.

    If we get the ball inside and if Pau and Lamar do not get out hustled on the boards it will be a short night.

  3. The one stat that tends to stick out in the preview is our Defensive rating being at 19 in the NBA. I remember our mantra that the Lakers will go as far as their defense takes them. Then of course we are 1st in the NBA at the offensive end of the board, so as long as we score more than the opponent, all is fine, I guess? I am also happy for Beasley, the number 2 pick in the draft, I remember the scouts saying that he could possibly even have gone ahead of Rose, if Chicago wanted someone who could contribute immediately. Of course we know what happened down in Miami. Life can turn itself around for you, if you give it a chance.

    “Hope is necessary in every condition.” – Samuel Johnson

  4. 3. I had a patient say to me the other day:

    “hope is the enemy, but delusion is your friend!”

    I think I like your quote better, though.

  5. I’d like to see the Lakers plan as if Bynum is never coming back and therefore go after Damp.

    Even when ‘drew returns, when’s his next injury?

    However since it’s not my money …

  6. Jeremy,
    With Kevin Love, I doubt we will have a board advantage. We just need to make sure we don’t have a board disadvantage. If we break even, we win.

  7. Completely off topic here, but everyone needs to read the post that Henry put up at TrueHoop on Greg Oden. Fantastic stuff…

    http://espn.go.com/blog/truehoop/post/_/id/21874/greg-odens-story-isnt-about-basketball-for-now

  8. nice pregame curtain raiser. My one major issue with the lakers is how they handled bynum’s timetable to return. I believe they knew it was bad once the surgery was completed (I mean, how could you not know? The doctor’s right there). Rather than putting it out there immediately, they waited until the start of training camp, and they’ll be playing catch up all season until he comes back. Why they handled it this way makes no sense to me. The earliest estimate was the start of the season and now we are hoping for mid-December.

  9. One positive about playing on the road is that after the game the players have to face each other. They don’t have the luxury of jumping in their vehicles for a quick exit home.

    So to that end, I fully expect the Lakers to a man to be vigilant to the execution of the offense and defense.

    LO should have a much better game against Kevin Love, as the last game LO looked like a little brother trying to play against his older brother.

    We’re all aware that Buss has gone all out to give this team a chance to win a 3-peat, by spending money and paying the luxury tax. However, I would not be opposed to the signing of Dampier (if he’d take it) for the veteran’s minimum. That would allow Bynum to come back slowly, and prevent Pau from being fatigued by playing 38-40 minutes a game. If we don’t lower Pau’s minutes going forward, he’ll be worn out before (if) the Lakers make it to the finals.

    Any player that the Lakers sign will have a learning curve to the nuances of the triangle.

    Indeed, if Buss is serious about defending the championship, he may have to dip a little further into his coffers for a serviceable big man like Dampier. I thought all players wanted a shot at a championship, well this would be the optimum opportunity for Dampier and the Lakers.

  10. #9. Where I have a problem is with language like “If Buss is serious about defending the championship”.

    He’s absolutely serious to the tune of the league’s highest payroll. Serious enough to pay Fisher, pay Brown, and bring in both Blake and Barnes (though the latter at a steep discount). Unlike in year’s past he didn’t sell draft picks. He’s spent as much as possible (save for a 15th player) and has put enough money out there to acquire the talent needed to build a damn deep roster 1-14.

    The fact is that this team is not healthy right now. And while many fans would have him spend more to fix this issue, I’m more than understanding if he doesn’t. He’s spent enough to build a great team. Right now some of that talent is unavailable but one day soon it will be. Right now, the Lakers are just going to have to ride it out and deal. Which, they’re doing quite nicely to this point.

  11. Might it make sense to give either Pau or Odom a first breather a little earlier than usual and sub in Caracter then?

    My thinking is that by playing Caracter alongside the other starters it would give him a reduced role and very specific duties – rebound and be ready to catch and finish on plays made by the big guns. If he proves to weak/ineffective in that stretch, sub him out and get back to the regular rotation. If he gives you some good minutes, save Gasol’s or Odom’s legs a bit for later in the game (unless there is a chance to blow the game open very early – then go for it and hope for extended garbage time) .

  12. Dampier obviously doesn’t have much left. Plenty of teams need a quality Center (did someone say Miami?) and nobody is biting on him after working him out. He clearly is washed up. There aren’t any Centers out there. Why is this so hard for us to understand? I know I come across as a Bynum lover. And guess what… I am. He is like a hot girl in England, one in a million. He can get injured every year and I will love him unconditionally because when he plays he is the 2nd best Center in the NBA and is the only Center the Lakers have on their roster. He turns the Lakers from a weak finesse team that can’t defensive rebound and turns us into defensive juggernaut that intimidates even the biggest of teams. Oh… by the way, it also allows Lamar Odom to come off the bench.

    How many teams even have one legitimate starting Center let alone a quality back up? Kareem isn’t walking through that door fellas. We are just going to have to wait for Andrew to get back and hope he stays healthy. And I urge you to start appreciating Mr. Bynum like a skinny girl on a cruise because when it comes to 7 foot Centers in the NBA who can run the floor, block shots, rebound, and make a 10 foot jump hook…. any flaw is like a beauty mark on a super model.

  13. I don’t understand dampier’s logic (or should I say his agent’s?). With the potential for a lockout, why not play and get your money now? Clearly he’s asking more than what the market will offer. And I’m not entirely convinced he’d be a great fit for the Lakers. Aside from Yao and Duncan, Pau can handle anyone at the center position in the West. I’d look at Dampier a little more seriously the closer we got to the all start break and if we still had no bynum.

  14. @Aaron

    A skinny girl on a cruise? You are in rare form today.

    And I agree with you on Bynum. Yes, he is only good for about 60 games. And you hope it is the last 60 games and not the first 60 games. But he makes a big difference. It is what it is.

    I saw a stat last night on TNT were they ranked the teams who were worst at giving up offensive rebounds. Denver was first and the Lakers are tied for second. That along with being ranked 19th in defensive efficiency are a little troubling.

    Bynum’s return will help out a lot. But the guys who are on the floor now could do a better job. Technically, the Lakers have a good stock of wing defenders in Kobe, Barnes, and Artest. Even with finesse guys like Odom and Gasol backing them up the defense should look better. I believe they will get it together. We know they can play better defense. It would just be nice to see it more often.

    I would love to see the Lakers win this game 95-85, while holding the Wovles to around 40% (or less) shooting. Considering they are averaging about 102 points a game that may be asking for too much. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed.

  15. Yes, I agree with Aaron as I typically do when I read this blog. I mean, all except his love for the heat who he claimed were easy champions this year. The heat who are the most unbalanced team I’ve ever seen. But I digress. Our best option now is to make due with character playing more minutes until bynum comes back. The rookie can hndle it. Bynm is and always has been the key to this team. One of the most undervalued players in the league. Not just his offense but more importantly his toughness and defense. Stud material.

  16. c’mon Aaron. just because we can’t name five(5!) legitimate* centers** in the league (Howard, Marc G, Hibbert, Okafor?, Bogut??) is no reason to get all negative about the chances of getting one.
    /sarcasm

    *someone you could count on for 10/8 per game.

    **I’d maintain that almost everyone else you can name is really a PF playing out-of-position, a la Pau G and Noah.

  17. Kaifa,

    That might sound like a good idea, but the triangle is based on all five players have a role and responsibility, so the unit would only be as strong as it’s weakest link. So by throwing DC in there, the effectiveness of the other four might be jeopardized.

    On other teams this could be solid since DC could hide on a weak side and crash the boards.

  18. Aaron, you get no arguments from me on what Bynum can be. I also don’t think the Lakers win the title this year if he is not at 80% or better.

    But the reality is Bynum was a non factor for two out of the last three finals. And a 50% factor in the other.

    I am not down on Bynum, but unlike you I am not just happy to take whatever he gives. If he is not giving during the playoffs it is pretty silly to talk about how great he could be. Hopefully this will be the year we see him fulfill the promise we all see in him.

  19. Bynum’s value in giving Pau rest cannot be overemphasized.

    One of the reasons Pau and Lamar don’t make a good rebounding/defensive combo over an entire game is that it is an entire game. They are both more finesse players than they are power players. Continual banging does tire them out and the first thing to go is defensive movement of the feet (legs get tired first).

    Combine this with an inability to just plug anyone into the triangle (mentioned above) and you get the reason we are just going to have to tough it out for a while. Thank goodness this is the regular season.

  20. The game is about to begin soon, great. Yeah, the Bynum news bummed me out for a couple of reasons, when I took him in a fantasy league (here), I was just expecting maybe a loss of eighteen games at the most, but I should have figured that he is and would be a slow healer, and that was a minimum at best. It is certainly more important to have him in the second season though, however many games we lose him out of 82, too bad Theo did not work out as planned.

    Go Lakers . . .

  21. @Darius, I was being facetious. And, I agree that Buss has done everything possible to put this team in a position to defend their championship.

    @Kaifa, I think this strategy would work because DC would be more relaxed with his role and he’d also gain confidence. Basketball acumen and confidence are bride and groom, they are married. Think, Shannon Brown and his performance this season.

    No matter which option is chosen, it is imperative that the Lakers trim Pau’s minutes. Of course, the answer could be that the Lakers continue to take the other team out of the game early so the starters can rest and ice in the 4th quarter.

  22. Guys, you’re forgetting… the storyline tonight is not about the Lakers, it’s about the Wolves’ handshake. Hope we see an epic one tonight.

  23. I really don’t understand all the drooling over Dampier going on in the NBA right now. It’s Erik Dampier for crying out loud! I think things are fine, we are winning games and besides Character has a 15+ PER.

    Let’s move the discussion to the game. I always enjoy watching the young teams play so this should be a fun one.

    First thing first I just want a W. Of course it would be nice to get everyone rest but I would not be surprised if the Wolves pushed us a bit,

    Would also like to see the Spurs and Celtics stumble tonight both of which are possible.

  24. Man, Kobe’s J looks flat.

  25. Darko imposing his will!

  26. Now you wonder why I’m a fan of Darko. It’s because of games like this one.

    Boy, that dunk by Shannon had the ball going out. LOL.

  27. Darko’s looking like manna from heaven tonight. I agree with the idea that we could try playing Caracter with the starters. Remember how well DJ played with the starters last season? Speaking of DJ, I have a feeling he’ll get cut by NOLA before the deadline and end up back with the Lakers.

  28. Question. Could Shannon Brown be an impact defensive player?

  29. In the last several trips the Lakers have really turned up their focus. Fisher’s three came off a beautiful look by Kobe and Odom’s dunk was an even better pass by Barnes. Kobe’s next three was followed by quite a serious look as if they want to close this game out right now. Nice to see.

    Can anyone catch me up to what I missed before that? Based off the comments, Darko has looked good, huh?

  30. does anybody have a link for this?

  31. Damn…Darko’s now on pace for a triple double on points (12), rebounds (9), and blocks (5) with 3:23 left in the 2nd quarter.

  32. Darius,

    Darko got a couple of blocks including one on Gasol and on the other end got a pretty sweet looking layup. He looked like what Chad Ford thought he was way back when. A skilled big man who can impact the game on both ends. Unlikely to last knowing Darko. Although as much guff as he has taken it would be a nice story if it did (after this game of course)

    PS he should bring back the frosted hair

  33. Darko’s scored with his little baby hook and on offensive rebounds. Pau isn’t going up very strong around the hoop, so Darko’s blocking everything.

  34. Gasol getting blocked by Darko who is having a good game

  35. Aaron, Fisher just put that one in your face for old times sake :)

    Edit. I have to say Darko’s body language is so much better than it has been in previous seasons. A serious turn around

  36. Darko finished the half with 12 pts (5-8 FG, 2-2 FT), 11 rebs, 3 assts, 6 blks, and one steal. I’m going to go out on a limb and state that this was the best half of his NBA career. He played 21 minutes and only has one foul and two turnovers.

  37. Alright everyone, I’m taking a break tonight and Phillip will have the recap up later tonight. Let me know in the comments what’s going on as I’ll sneak back for updates. Cheers.

  38. @ Simonoid, he is OK, just a re-tape, hey with that Caracter guy there are no worries tonight with our bigs.

  39. relax pau back on court….he had to potty

  40. I’m on delay right now due to a dinner break so forgive me if this has been asked but I wanted to get it in while its fresh

    at the 7:00 mark in the 3rd qtr on a defensive possession Lamar grabbed and held the back of Kobe’s jersey preventing him from leaving a man they were essentially doubling. Does anyone know why Lamar did this? I’m assuming it had something to do with a defensive rotation

  41. Matt Barnes 6-6 from 3 through 3Qs

  42. Beasley was obtained for a couple of second round picks by the Wolves. I mean, Miami must have needed that salary dump very, very bad to give up a talent like that for peanuts. He could be a franchise player in the future, if not this year under Rambis.

  43. Pau tweaked an ankle trying to stop a Beasley drive. It wasn’t a rolled ankle, just one of those little tweaks when you land on your tiptoes after a jump and one of your feet tweaks a little bit sideways.

  44. Shannon Brown got poked in the eye and went to the locker room

  45. Getting close to taco unit time…

  46. Still, freaks me out when another big just decides to take a rest these days…

  47. Looks like tonight Matt Barnes Will Kill You from behind the arc.

    Just a great line for him in this game. 7/7 fgs, 5/5 3pt, 3/3 fts, along with 6 rebs and 6 asts. Top notch.

    Add in a couple of steals… he’s probably matching Darko for career night numbers.

  48. As Kevin Harlan would say, “Matt Barnes is a Flame Thrower Tonight.”

  49. player A:8-23fg 1-4 3pt 4-5ft 21pt
    player B: 7-7 fg 5-5 3pt 3-3ft 22pt

    which one is Kobe?

  50. hope Shannon Brown is ok

  51. Why are the Laker starters still in the 4th really? Kobe padding his stats…

  52. ROFL wil, that doesn’t work after AusPhil just posted Barnes’ stats.

  53. @54 And by padding his stats you mean making his already low fg% even worse…?

  54. BTW, way too many forces again from Bryant tonight. Some are taken in the context of the offense, but many aren’t.

  55. Sorry wil – I timed that post perfectly poorly for your question! Unintentional spoiler.

    Not one of Pau’s nicest looking double-doubles tonight, although if he stays on the floor a while more, it’ll improve. I’m with Mark, let’s get some starters out. Heck, take Barnes out to preserve the beauty of that perfect shooting!

  56. Pls Phil, sit Kobe down. He’s really Stinkin’ it up tonight.

  57. Can anyone tell me when the last time a non-starter lead our team in scoring? In recent memory, I can’t think of an instance.

  58. No game will be perfect but the team did what it needed to tonight. Good win.

    Celtics lost as well. A good night

  59. Ive been wanting to say this for a while but after tonight i cant hold it in.. Ive never liked the lakers team so much as this year. I love the lake show but usually there are a couple players that im not stoked over but this year is way different I love all the starters (w/ bynum) lamar, the killer b’s, the rookies. Love ‘em all. the only one im not a huge fan of is sasha (except when guarding dragic) but he never gets playing time anymore over shannons amazing play this year. and our biggest concern (three point shooting) is one of our greatest strengths
    we just need to step up our defense but I think when drew gets back that will help!

  60. This is LA Lakers Basketball: Where the bench guys post starter stats.

  61. Kevin Love 0-7 from the floor, 0-2 from three, 7 boards and a team-low -27. What the hell did they do to him?

    Also, Darko had the game of his LIFE and was -21. Weird.

    Wow, Lamar with 11/8/7 and four blocks. And 30 assists on 40 makes. I love box scores.

  62. LO, way to show the youngster why you were the Captain! = )

  63. The elephant in the room is that despite putting up good numbers recently, Kobe’s shot still doesn’t look right-flat and short way more often than it should be. His leg(s) don’t seem to be all the way there.

    I have man love for Matt Barnes and his bad haircut. Had no idea he was this good-and he passes the rock!

  64. @62 Jordan
    Great now we’re jinxed… jk But really what’s not to like with this team so far?

    Personally, the 2008 Lakers post Gasol trade/pre-finals meltdown was the incarnation I liked the most. Sasha and Farmar were on their way up (it seemed), the change of going from Kwame Brown to Gasol in the post was unbelivable, the chemistry between gasol and everyone, and also TURIAF made it one of the best times in fandom.

  65. a day late but…

    @aaron? i think every one here understands that Bynum is important to the team, we’re just worried that he’s healthy enough.

    I don’t think there is anyone on this site that thinks Bynum sucks.