Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  March 1, 2011

Records: Lakers 42-19 (3rd in West), T’Wolves 14-46 (15th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.8 (2nd in NBA), T’Wolves 104.8 (24th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 105.0 (10th in NBA), T’Wolves 110.9 (26th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers:Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
T’Wolves: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Injuries: Lakers: Matt Barnes & Theo Ratliff (out); T’Wolves:Martell Webster (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Simply put, the Lakers are rolling right now. Not every win has been pretty and, to be blunt, some have been outright difficult with the victory looking unlikely at various points in the game. But the team has been focused and showed a resiliency that’s been lacking at previous points in the year. If that single mindedness can extend through the rest of the regular season, I’ll be happy even with the occasional loss that’s sure to come. Because even with a loss here and there, this team is showing that they will be a tough out in the post-season and that, for me, is what I’ve been looking for throughout all the ups and downs this year. The fact that they’re starting to show it in this final stretch to the regular season encourages me to no end.

The T’Wolves Coming in: The Wolves continue to struggle. Before their win over the Warriors on Sunday they’d lost 7 consecutive games against only so-so competition. While Kevin Love continues to put up the numbers that got him into the all-star game (he had another 20/20 game against the Dubs), the rest of his team shows its inconsistency nightly and the results are a bottom of the league offense and defense and a mish-mash of talent that doesn’t seem to add up to an actual team.

Meanwhile, GM David Kahn continues to add pieces that look good on paper but will still need time to bear any fruit. At the trade deadline they dealt for versatile former lottery pick Anthony Randolph (as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal) and gave up Corey Brewer in the process. Randolph, like Darko and Beasley and Martell Webster offers a prospect that has talent but hasn’t been able to summon it on a consistent basis to actually postively impact a team. And while I think this was a risk worth taking I wonder if Kahn will ever truly build a team rather than stocking up on other teams’ throwaway talents that didn’t perform. I mean, at some point a team must be constructed and so far I don’t see it. Maybe I’ll be proven wrong in a year or two, but I have my doubts.

T’Wolves Blogs: A Wolf Among Wolves provides great content daily. Give ’em a visit to get the skinny on this team.

Keys to game:That focus and single mindedness I mentioned earlier will need to be on full display this game for the Lakers if they hope to take of this team the way that they should. I mean, considering the talent disparity and the current level of play both teams have shown the Lakers should win in a walk. But, many times this season the Lakers haven’t brought that full attention to detail in games like these and it’s cost them.

To avoid that tonight, the Lakers must play smart and to their strengths. Offensively that means attacking Kevin Love. Love may be the rebounding wunderkind but he’s quite bad at defending his man in one on one situations. Gasol should get plenty of chances to feast on the undersized PF with touches on the low block and short wing, where he can work in isolation. If Pau shows aggression, he could easily have 15-20 points by halftime just by stroking his jumper and then using his first step and height to get off shots inside of 8 feet.

I’d also like to see Bynum get involved tonight since he’s been absent in the previous match ups between these two teams. Bynum’s match up with Darko is a bit trickier in that Darko posesses good strength (anyone that can do this is pretty strong) and also shows good timing in blocking shots. That said, Bynum is bigger and longer than Darko and I’d love to see him fight for position and pin Darko deep in the post where easy shots are available.

As for Kobe, I’d really like to see him work off the ball more tonight. He’ll likely be guarded by Wesley Johnson who has good length and has bothered Kobe a bit in the early games when they’ve faced off. Make the rook work by running him off the ball and then flashing to open space within the offense. I guarantee Kobe will get better looks this way than if he isolates on the wing.

Defensively, controlling the glass and the pace of the game will be key. We all know that Kevin Love is a beast on the boards and must be accounted for at all times. He shows rare instincts in moving to the ball when the shot is in the air and if his defender is flat-footed he will be outworked for the rebound. Gasol, Bynum, and Odom will all need to be aggressive in marking Love, and even if they just keep him away from the ball without grabbing the board themselves, they’ll have done a good job.

As for the tempo, the Wolves play at the fastest pace in the league. That’s right–Phoenix, Denver, and Golden State all play slower than the Wolves. The Lakers need to understand this and get back defensively so as to not give up easy baskets in transition. Beasley, Johnson, Ridnour, and Telfair all enjoy getting out in the open court and Kevin Love is great spotting up for jumpers as the trail man after the ball is pushed up. The Lakers must sprint back and find their man.

On an individual level, I’m interested in once again watching Ron go to work against Beasley in the half court. After the last game between these two, Ron had some not so kind words about Beasley’s offensive versatility. Whether that was gamesmanship or just an honest critique matters not one bit, considering Beasley surely remembers and will be looking to put up some points on the Lakers’ defensive stopper. Remember, Beasley is a lefty that is good finishing going to his strong hand but is also adept at going to his right to shoot his pull up jumper from the elbow. Ron will have to deal with him in space and isolation situations so it’d be nice if he remembered his opponent’s tendencies.

This is a game the Lakers should win. “Should” is different than “will,” though. If the Lakers truly have turned the corner in taking these last 20 games seriously, we’ll see the corresponding effort for most of this contest and at some point they’ll impose their will and pull away (even if that means a 6-8 point run that closes the door). This is what I’m hoping to see. I don’t care about style points, only W’s. Lets get this one tonight.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time out West on KCAL. Also listen live on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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78 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. I think I read somewhere the Lakers were the last team to hold K-Love off the double-double streak he’s riding. A W plus a weak game from Love would be a good night.

    Like you said above, though, with the Cavs still fresh in my mind, there is no certainty to “win in a walk”.

    And For Warren!

  2. Looking forward to a blow-out (should happen in the third q).

    On another note (regarding the Defending the PG spot comments from the other post): doesnt sagging off the PG not only do what has been said but, if the PG has a sweet shot, doesnt his jacking-up shots take his teammates out of the game and get him tired in the 4th q? Can that also be a strategy?

  3. I hate to say this because I think he could one day be an important contributor on a championship caliber team, but when was the last time someone but up such historic yet ultimately irrelvant stats as Kevin Love?

  4. But his dad was in The Beach Boys.

  5. I hope we get Brewer. He just makes us deeper and there is nothing wrong with having players who can play on your bench. We have enough that can’t (Luke, Theo, and JSmith).

  6. Anyone have a link to watch the game?

  7. Love starts off by hanging in Pau’s arm, getting the board and somehow getting the call as well..

  8. And Drew continues to be a beast. He’s been incredible lately=)

  9. Some serious masonry going on right now.

  10. bynum working his butt off, so reward him, GIVE HIM THE BALL!

  11. I hate to sound like a broken record, but I truly believe that Bynum could become the league’s most dominating player. Would I bet my house on it? Maybe not, but he certainly has that kind of talent level.

  12. Shannon Brown has to get better at handling to ball.

  13. Not to be negative, but will someone tell me how the Lakers are shooting 32.5 percent in the whole half against a bad defense?? I am not watching the game cause I am at work.

  14. Joe: Although the offense has been pretty ugly, mostly they’re just not making shots. It feels like this will be a win however, since they haven’t had a decent run so far and still are right there.

    My guess is that they’ll win the third quarter handily.

  15. Joe, my take is that there is not a lot of ball movement and there is also a lot of contact being allowed both ways.

  16. when was the last time kobe shot a free throw? seems like weeks ago

  17. James: Seriously – I know we’re biased as fans, but this is getting silly.

    Edit: The fact that he doesn’t get to the line ie, not you complaining about it=)

  18. down to 29.8 percent. This has got to be the worst shooting performance of the season so far.

  19. Wait, if that was not continuation on the made bucket by Kobe, then why did he shoot free throws?

    Are the Lakers in the bonus already?

  20. 25-16 for the quarter is still ok. Let’s just hope they keep the D up in the fourth. (And they should, with Drew getting back in there.)

  21. That we’re shooting 35% and still leading after 3 is a true testament to just how great the Timberwolves are as a team.

  22. FYI everyone, I just got home from handling some personal stuff and just turned on the game. If there’s a recap at all for this game it won’t be posted until much later this evening after I watch the full game. But, based off the comments so far I may not want to. 😉

    Can anyone fill me in on what I’ve missed? Thanks.

  23. Darius: You haven’t missed all that much;) The Lakers played down to the competition in the first half, and turned it on somewhat in the second half…and now it looks like they’re going to win it rather easily as a result.

  24. Darius, only caught the third so far, but basically, we were shooting sub-30’s from the field and hung around, until Kobe turned it semi-on in the third (12 points) and we caught up and passed them.

    Now the entire team is involved on offense, combine that with the Wolves failing in general – and we have a double-digit lead. And that’s all you’ll need to know about this game.

    Oh and just to add to that – our bigs aren’t being the most efficient but they’re corralling a few boards on the offensive glass, which is the pretty much the difference in the game.

  25. Grizzlies blowing out the Spurs..

  26. Are they? That’s interesting. I guess they’re playing a home and home – they almost took one in San Antonio a couple of nights ago.

  27. Spurs are without Tony Parker, but then again – the Grizzlies are without Rudy Gay (which is worse).

  28. Haha yeah, they might even push the Spurs to 6 in the first round.

  29. Oh joy this might be one of those rare nights when a team we’re trying to catch loses, and we actually take advantage.

    I doubt we’ll catch the Alamo Gang, so I’d rather have watched Dallas lose. Getting the #2 seed is big.

    Simonoid – At this point I’m thinking we’re more likely to face Memphis, I think they’re going to catch the 6 or 7 seed. It’s not the most comfortable thought, given 2 of the 3 best Kobe defenders in the league are on that team, plus another Gasol. They match up solidly against us.

    Then again, as last year showed, a tough early opponent is sometimes the best juice to get a rhythm and urgency going.

    Just boxscore glancing, I’m happy to see Pau beasting Love on the boards – always a great sight. And looks like Kobe’s protege, Wes Johnson, held his own against his mentor (from a #’s standpoint anyway).

  30. ROFL @ Wolves announcers hosting a lovefest for Kobe Bryant during the entirety of the 2nd half. Anyone else notice?

  31. Simonoid: Yeah=) I actually found them to be refreshingly impartial. (And we all know that you need to give Kobe some love if you are in fact impartial;))

  32. Andrea: agreed. Such an awesome change of pace from the Blazers’ ones – i.e. worst in the world.

  33. Luke Walton played 13 minutes. Someone give me a reason not to barf all around my room.

  34. Meh….lousy game to watch from an aesthetic standpoint, but pretty good defense from wire to wire.

    I’ve been a Bynum basher at various times, and a Kobe apologist at various times, so I make it a point to try to take the opposite view….

    Tonight was one of those games where if Bynum was mentally weak as some suggest, he would have said “screw it, if they aren’t going to give me the ball when I’m dominating, then to heck with them…” Drew was absolutely abusing MIN’s front line, and Kobe, Fish, and, well just about everyone else was jacking up jumpers instead of getting him the rock. To his credit, he didn’t pout—he just kept playing tough D, kept altering shots, and kept doing the little things.

    I hope he has fully turned the corner…

  35. Lakers pulling away after allowing only 16 points in the 3rd quarter, while having their best offensive quarter of the game. Gotta love the way the Lakers have been winning games lately. They’ve been patient with their offense, not letting it get too Kobe-centric when the shots aren’t falling, and ratcheting up the D as the game goes on. Very cerebral.

    That’s my favorite thing about this Lakers team, and my argument for why they’ll 3-peat: because they’re the smartest team in the league.

  36. Zephid, lets not get negative on Luke Walton. He will come through with the big pass when it matters.

  37. In no game should Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Ron Artest, and Derek Fisher all have the exact same number of attempted FGs.

  38. Sorry everyone but there will not be a recap tonight. If you’d like to know why (and I normally don’t make the site about my personal life) just found out that me and my wife are having a baby girl. So, we’re celebrating tonight. We’ll have a new post up in the morning.

  39. Congratulations Darius!!

  40. Dodol Surodol March 1, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Congrats, Darius and Mrs!

  41. Major congrats to both of you! Another Lakers fan on the way!

  42. Bigtime congratulations Darius (and family)!

  43. Congrats Darius!

  44. Congratulations

    The Lakers on a 5-game streak is just the bonus

  45. Congratulations Darius!!!

  46. Thanks for the well wishes everyone. They’re much appreciated. Super happy about this news. (Also very happy the Lakers keep winning. And how about the Spurs getting blown out by Memphis? Seems like that Parker guy is pretty important, no?)

  47. Congrats, Darius. Will the wife let you name her Mamba… 🙂

  48. Awesome news Darius! As we always say around here, ‘ enjoy the ride.’ 🙂

    My beef about the game – it was really poorly officiated. They were letting way too much stuff go on both sides. It made for an ugly game that started looking like playground ball. For me, that is what is going to kill the game. It just wasn’t fun to watch. I found myself rooting for both the Lakers and the Wolves, and against the refs.

  49. Hey Darius. Fantastic! Yes take the damn night off 😉

  50. Congrats Darius, great news indeed!

  51. kehntangibles March 1, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    Awesome news! Long time readers of FB&G will perhaps remember that whenever blog founder Kurt Helin had a baby the Lakers made the finals that year. So here’s hoping history repeats itself 🙂

  52. Congrats Darius!

    As a Laker fan you should name her Pau-LA. 😉

    Kidding aside, carpe diem; not sure if you have any other children, but I’m finding out that free-time becomes seriously precious once your child is born 😉

  53. Congrats Darius, your life will never be the same, and in a good way. Just so you know, the years are going to start going by really fast now – enjoy!

  54. Congrats Darius. Hope the Kurt tradition continues!!!

    For those who were lamenting about free throws, there were 97 in the New York, Miami game. Would you have rather that type game?

  55. One more thing. If you want to know why I appreciate this site so much, just check out the spleen on display at After reading the description of tonight’s admittedly poor product produced by both teams this often well researched blog should get a new domain…

  56. Great news, good times! Congratulations!

  57. Fantastic news Darius! I’ll do the recap for you:

    The Lakers struggled early, controlled the boards, and took charge in the second half.

    Done and done.

    Get your sleep now!

  58. 55 – In their defense, Minnesota basketball fans haven’t had success to look forward to since…the Minneapolis Lakers.

    Apologies to my good friends from Minnesota. Hopefully Glen Taylor will one day find a competent GM.

  59. congrats darius!

  60. Snoopy – you think? I can see New Orleans sliding a little (3-7 in last ten), but Portland (7-3)? Especially with Roy’s pseudo-return? I think he’ll energize the team, at least. Plus you always have to worry about Phoenix (8-2) climbing a few spots, with just a game separating all these teams.

  61. Congrats Darius!
    As for the Lakers, it would be nice if they could slide into second and have NOLA hang onto seventh, but it looks like the Hornets are going to drop out of the playoffs entirely.

  62. Submitted without comment,19331/

    BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Ok, not without comment. I lied. So sue me.

  63. Congrats from Spain Darius!

  64. Congrats from Brazil Darius.
    keep up the good work !

  65. congrats Darius!Awesome news.

  66. Congratulations Darius! Definitely a well-deserved celebration for you!

  67. First of all: Congrats Darius – that’s great news=)

    I just have to give you an example of how wonderful the Spanish press is. Their headline for the recap of the game after Pau’s had one his worst shooting nights in recent memory (he did ok in other areas, but still):

    Pau Gasol – impossible to deal with

    You gotta love how impartial they are:D

  68. Lmao – Dude, that was awesome. I don’t watch much of the new Onion TV thing, so I have to say, one of those guys perfectly nailed Steve Levy and the supposedly witty SportsCenter banter.

    Simonoid – Yeah, you’re right, Portland should definitely play good ball to finish out the season. I figured Denver or NO would drop to 8 and both Memphis and Portland would overtake them, but I also forgot Gay is out. They’re all packed so close down there its hard to tell.

    Remember when we were fighting for the 7th seed? 😀

  69. Renato Afonso March 2, 2011 at 7:52 am

    Heh! Congrats Darius!!!!! So, better start buying purple and yellow clothing for the baby, right? 😉

  70. Congrats Darius and much Blessings n your Baby Girl’s future.

  71. Congrats Darius! I think you need a special thread just for name suggestions:

    Mamba (from Jayelvee)
    Pau-LA (from Harold)
    Big Game Jane
    The Fabulous Flora

  72. What about Jeanie? That’s a cool name. Anyways, huge congrats and all the best! One more added to the ever growing Laker Nation population!

  73. What about Luke? Shannon?

    ; ) Congrats.

  74. Darius–


    if i may, one piece of advice from one father of a baby girl to another: if the Lakers should play the Celtics in the Finals, do not let the baby anywhere near the television and, more importantly, if the baby is indeed near the television, by all means do not throw the remote control as hard as you can, shattering a mirror on the opposite side of the room (not anywhere near the kid) while screaming an obscenity that rhymes with ‘duck’ at the top of your lungs two or three times in a row.

    my wife assures me that, according to a book she read on the matter, this constitutes ‘bad parenting’. Purely a theoretical case, of course, and I secretly suspect the author of that book is a regular contributor to CelticsBlog.


  75. Congrats Darius!