Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  March 18, 2011

Records: Lakers 48-20 (tied for 2nd in West), Timberwolves 17-52 (14th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 111.6 (2nd in NBA), Timberwolves 104.7 (23rd in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 104.5 (7th in NBA), Timberwolves 110.2 (26th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Timberwolves: Luke Ridnour, Wesley Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
Injuries: Lakers: Theo Ratliff and Devin Ebanks (out); Timberwolves: none

The Lakers Coming in: Considering the Lakers haven’t played since Monday, it’s almost easy to forget that they’re one of the hottest teams in the league. Winning 10 of 11, the only team that can match what the Lakers have done of late are the streaking Bulls that have also won 10 of 11 including 8 in a row.

When things are going this well, the only concerns are health and if the Lakers can continue their strong play for the next 14 games and through the playoffs. On the first note, Kobe’s ankle is still swollen but he’s likely to play tonight after receiving non-stop treatment since Monday. He’s been taking off practices in order to reduce any potential strain on his bum wheel and I can only hope that over the next couple of weeks he can return to (relative) full health (after all, no one is fully healthy this time of year). Besides Kobe, Andrew Bynum continues to tell the press that he’s not yet fully healthy either. He states that he still has some fluid build up in his knee and that he’s on anti-inflammatory medication to help with the swelling that still occurs. I know that this sounds worrisome, but I take it as par for the course with Big ‘Drew. He’s always been 100% forthcoming with the media in how he’s doing physically and for a man that size, it may just be unavoidable that he has some of these lingering affects in his joints. Maybe this is why he says that he’d like to lose a bit of weight heading into the playoffs as a lighter frame may help with the force he puts on his knees.

As for the team being able to keep up their strong play, I don’t see why it can’t happen. Obviously health will play a factor in that, but right now this team looks focused and determined to play their best ball and when that’s the case they’re normally able to pull it off. There’s a reason that the Lakers have never been counted out as a true contender despite their up and down ways. They always seem to be able to conjure good play when it matters.

The Timberwolves Coming in: What can you say about a team that’s lost 50 games for the 5th straight year? They don’t defend consistently, don’t put together coherent offensive possesions over the course of the game, and the players don’t seem to be responding to their coach. This all has led to rumors of Kurt Rambis being out at the end of the year, but GM David Kahn refutes those reports.  Either way, the Wolves need to reshape their team in some way to get their franchise back on track but it doesn’t seem like there’s an immediate plan that can actually make it happen. I mean, Ricky Rubio still speaks as if he’s at least a year away from coming to the NBA, Kevin Love – despite accumulating double doubles like Moses Malone – can’t win games on his own, and that GM that’s saying his coach is safe isn’t really acquiring the types of players that will make anyone’s life easier. So, this team continues to lose. And their fans deserve better. Remember, this was a team that faced off with the Lakers in the West Finals less than 10 years ago and had one of the best players in his generation as the core of a winning roster. And now they’re back to where they were as an expansion team. It’s actually all kind of sad.

Timberwolves Blogs: Check out A Wolf Among Wolves for consistently great content. Also give a click to Canis Hoopus for more good coverage of this team.

Keys to game: Despite the Wolves being a bad team, they offer an interesting match up for the Lakers and often play them tough. And despite the gulf in talent that exists, this actually shouldn’t be a surprise. Just consider that the Wolves run the same offensive system as the Lakers, start a big line up that can better defend the Lakers’ strengths (especially on the wing in defending Kobe), play at a very fast pace, have a stretch PF that can hit open shots, and they attack the offensive boards to gain extra possessions. These traits all appear on the list of traits that would trouble the Lakers.

All that said, I expect the Lakers to win tonight. LA has more talent and is playing at a level that the Wolves just can’t match right now. In order to actually get it done, though, the Lakers will have to more than just go through the motions.

Offensively they’ll need to move the ball inside out and from strong to weak side to get the D moving. This will enable every player to get involved and find their rhythm early. I’d love to see a balanced attack tonight with all the starters getting to double figures with rarely balanced FGA’s across the entire team. I understand that individually each Laker has some sort of an advantage, but by playing team ball the Lakers should be able to break this game open early and make the Wolves play from behind.

Defensively the Lakers need to work on keeping the Wolves out of transition to force them to run their sets in the half court. When the Wolves have to play against a set O, their execution suffers and they become overly reliant on Beasley being able to create his own looks or they default into their base Triangle where they just don’t have the individual talent to generate the mismatches that force help and thus open up the cutters and weak side actions that really make the offense hum. If LA can build a wall against Ridnour in the open court and turn this into a game where Beasley, Darko, and Wes Johnson have to create looks for themselves, the Lakers will be just fine.

The other key to the game is rebounding. Any time you face a team with Kevin Love this becomes a priority and the Lakers must have their wits about them and go to the glass as hard as he will in order to avoid giving up too many extra possessions. I’m actually quite interested to see if Bynum continues his stellar rebounding ways when facing off against a team with the league’s leading rebounder. ‘Big Drew more than held his own against Howard, but Love is a different type of animal as he uses positioning, timing, and excellent feel for where the ball is going rather than classic athleticism to get the job done. This isn’t to say that Bynum won’t be able to just use his length and increased effort to go get the ball (after all, that’s been working quite well lately) but he’ll have a different type of challenger going after those same caroms tonight. Should be an interesting watch.

Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on Fox Sports West. Also listen at ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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112 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. You might want to fix the injuries and starting lineups. When I first read that I was thinking that MN was missing their all of their best players tonight.

  2. Normally, I’d think this is a trap game, but we’ll see.

    Despite Love’s astonishing rebounding ability, I don’t think he can match up with our bigs on the glass.

    I would let Beasley take all the shots he want. Beasley is the type of player that if he feels he’s hot, he will keep chucking away (a la Kobe).

    I don’t think Fisher will match up too well with Ridnour, but let’s hope Bynum’s presence and team defense will keep him at bay. Ridnour, like Udrih, may not be the quickest or most athletic player, but he will find a way to penetrate and dish.

  3. #1. Fixed. Don’t know what happened there. Thanks for the heads up.

  4. Chris Bosh – the (latest) gift that keeps on giving..
    “That was embarrassing. A woman shouldn’t heckle. In the public eye, you have to represent not only you but your spouse, too. You have to be a lady. She just has to sit there, clap, and look pretty.”

  5. Are we not doing the Warren posts anymore? I know I haven’t been around as much as last year, but I haven’t seen them a lot this season.

    For Warren!

  6. Maybe because it doesn’t work and Warren himself hasn’t been around for ages.

    Someone check to see if “For Warren!” was in the first post of the Cavaliers pre-game rundown.

  7. well, Warren himself doesn’t come around much, and invoking his name wasn’t working for a while there (but what was?).

  8. The Warren posts started because Kurt put the game posts up in the very early morning and Warren, being in the Philippines, was often the 1st to get a post in. Kurt is gone and Warren is an infrequent poster – I guess it is all sort of coming undone.

  9. The 4 game losing streak pretty much killed the Warren tradition.

  10. this is definitely a trap game.

    without adequate effort on the lakers’ part, the wolves will make up for poor shooting with o-rebs and transition baskets.

  11. Good point… it has been a while since I saw Warren post.

    I hope I didn’t jinx the game now!

  12. Darius,
    Why in the preview did you make it seem that Bynum and Kevin would be matched up against eachother? Love is a PF and hasn’t ever been matched up with Andrew.

  13. Guys –

    Did some quick backchecking. Which isn’t to say I’ve checked every game thread since February, but…

    There was *no* ‘For Warren’ on Black February, the day of the that game. (I’m pretty sure you know what I speak of) Now, an interesting fact for numerologists: the game that shall not be named was on 2/16, and 216 happens to be the Cleveland area code. Maybe the numbers were truly against us that night. Maybe Ron Artest’s math major at St. John’s came back to bite us in the a$$.

    There was also no ‘For Warren’ for the Charlotte debacle 2 days earlier.

    On the flip side, there also wasn’t a ‘For Warren’ for many of the games afterwards that ignited our post-All Star winning streak. It did make an appearance for the Miami loss, but conversely there was also a ‘For Warren’ for the two biggest wins of our post-All Star surge: the win at Dallas and the vintage 2001-inspired destruction of San Antonio.

  14. #12. Is that how it seemed? I only meant to imply that they’ll be battling each other on the glass. Since Love is one of the premier rebouders in the game, I think this is something to watch for.

  15. I wonder where Bynum ranks in the “lakers most important players list” right now.

    If he stays as healthy as he is now, I would say he is 2nd. But i’m not saying who is 1st, you’ll have to guess that.

    Ok, forget the guessing:

    1) Pau
    2) Bynum
    3) Kobe
    4) Odom

    Kobe is the best player, but his selfishness has really got to me. He definitely helps the team out greatly, but his hero mode escapades are a negative. If he would restrict himself to only taking good shots, it would go like this:

    1) Kobe
    2) Pau
    3) Bynum
    4) Odom

    And the Lakers would be unstoppable. Kobe is my favorite player, and so it really confuses me on WHY he thinks taking extremely difficult shots is ok, when we have Bynum and Pau who can basically get good looks at any time. During this last stretch of Bynum dominant games, the guy is shooting like 75% from the field and causes massive foul trouble for opposing teams.

    Kobe should be smarter than he is currently showing.

  16. Good stuff going on right now:

    Sas up wit 10 against Dallas,
    Chicago down with 10 against Pacers
    Boston down with 8 against Houston

    That would be a good start to the evening if that holds up!

  17. @ 4 – Bosh first needs to figure out how to act like an adult, then maybe he can opine about how others should behave.

  18. 8, about time someone gave an explanation for that.

    I think I asked a couple times, but stopped when it wasn’t getting answered.

    Better late than never.


  19. wow, rose is definitely making a case for mvp.

    3fts (not sure how legit that was, but still) and a block to force OT.

  20. 15

    Kobe is your favourite player and you wonder why he goes into hero mode at times? You realise he did pretty much the same thing when Shaq was laying waste to the league 10 years ago? He’s basically the same dude he’s always been, for better or worse – supremely confident and stubborn as a mule. I would also like him to scale back a bit sometimes but I’m not exactly puzzled about it.

  21. I dare someone to figure out the winning percentages for each person who gives a shout out to Warren with the first post….double dog dare, ever!

  22. Good start to the evening. The Bulls lose in Indy, and Boston is down 27 in Houston late in the 3rd. If the Spurs can hold on to beat Dallas and our guys beat Minny, the team’s position will be looking pretty good.

  23. man, having the 2nd best overall record would be nice.

  24. anyone got a working stream link?

  25. #20

    Difficult shots are not a problem when they are going in. When they stop going in, then they become a problem. A smart player (and poster) should see the difference and make the necessary adjustments.

  26. Cayucos Surfer March 18, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    link anyone?

    hopefully we can get this W tonight and try to move closer to 2nd in the overall standings. Would not want to see the Celtics with homecourt in the finals.

  27. 25

    “Difficult shots are not a problem when they are going in. When they stop going in, then they become a problem.”

    Not if the player in question always believes the next difficult shot is going in. Again, this is how Kobe is and always has been. If you want to wring your hands about it be my guest.

  28. Ok, I understand that Milicic definitely shouldn’t have been a top-5 pick in that 2003 draft, but WOW. He is playing so pathetically out there that I almost feel bad for him. At least 7 or 9 points out of our first 11 were scored at the expense of Milicic.

  29. stu is so brutal when it comes to criticizing darko. i feel sorry for him.

  30. Link : Atdhenet dot tv

    I could see Kevin Love on the Lakers…
    Bynum / Love combo would be a beautiful future.

  31. I tell you what… We talk a lot about Kobe doing it but this team’s perimeter guys in general are experts at ignoring the bigs in favour of jacking up jumpers.

  32. joel, it must be the triangle lol.

  33. sloppy 1st quarter, but it wasn’t unexpected. Andrew’s still bringing it and his presence will be what keys us taking back this game. That said, Kobe’s shooting is starting to getworrisome. Not the shot selection, since Kobe is Kobe, but the inability to hit the broadside of a barn as of late.

  34. “johnny griffin” ? come on, man.

  35. Joel Meyers insists on calling Jonny Flynn “Griffin.” LOL

  36. I was wondering who the hell ‘Griffin’ was!

  37. None of our jump shooters can hit a bull in the ass with a bass fiddle tonight.

  38. Is it me or is Joel’s interpretation of ‘points off a turnover’ really liberal? Does it count as ‘points off a turnover’ if you walk the ball up, run a set play, and hit a jumper with 3 left on the clock?

  39. Here comes the lakers bench.

  40. @40. It’s not just Joel. Every time I see it discussed on TV, it’s the next possession after a turnover. Even if Jonny “Griffin” travels and the Lakers get the ball out of bounds, if they score then they get credited for points off the turnover. Pretty stupid, I agree.

    Hey Drew, see what happens when you use the backboard? 😀

    Edit – leave it to Kahn to pick the worst PG in the deepest PG draft in the past 20 years.

  41. kobes hurt, and of course his shot is off. Come playoff time, he’ll be ready.

  42. I was really hoping Bynum would throw a flex out after that and1

  43. 43

    Also, Kobe is a streaky shooter anyway, even more so now that he relies on his jumper more than ever. It’s hard to draw any solid conclusions from a few games of masonry.

  44. Every time I see that “Arthur” commercial and Helen Mirren says “wash your winkie” while wearing the Darth Vader mask, it just kills me 😀

  45. I’ve come to the armchair conclusion that Kobe should have taken tonight off. He’s actually hurting the team right now.

  46. 47, yes he is. But I think he wants to one up Bosh’s 1 for 18 game this year. 0 for 7 so far is a good start.

  47. Dude, I think that I would have to concur with your armchair conclusion. Not a pretty (or efficient) 1st half from Kobe tonight.

    But those 2 deep threes (just after I initially posted) were exciting…

  48. @47. Never mind 😉

    Cue Darius in one…two…three

  49. kobe really shouldn’t be playing

  50. I literally said out loud ‘don’t you f**king dare!’ before both of those shots by Kobe. Typical.

  51. As soon as I say that, he nails 2 threes. I’ll take credit for that! :)

  52. joel,

    Streaky indeed. Mamba strikes again.

  53. Kobe’s truly struggling with the length and footspeed of Johnson. He’s getting his normal looks (wing jumpers, iso’s at the elbow) but Johnson is bottling him up. Those two threes were “dig me out of a hole” shots and to his credit he nailed them (he *is* Kobe, after all). But in the 2nd half I’d love to see him use more curls and cuts to the ball side to make Johnson play D on the move rather than in isolation.

    The Lakers bigs, on the other hand, are playing great. Need to to a better job keeping love off the glass though.

  54. 28.Joel wrote on March 18, 2011 at 7:48 pm

    “Difficult shots are not a problem when they are going in. When they stop going in, then they become a problem.”

    Not if the player in question always believes the next difficult shot is going in. Again, this is how Kobe is and always has been. If you want to wring your hands about it be my guest.

    I was talking about the longer term. In his younger days, Kobe would make a higher percentage of difficult shots and his ISO’s were more effective. Now he misses more of them and is not as effective in isolation. Not to mention his teammates are incredibly efficient.

    Kobe needs to get more of his points from easier shots. It’s a very easy recipe for personal success (kobe’s) and team success. Him going into ISO mode is a recipe for disaster, on the other hand. Of course depending on the extent to which he goes into ISO mode as compared to staying in the offense.

    Also, I’m not sure when “he has always been like that” turned into an excuse for bad behavior. Should a thief who has been stealing for 10 years be pardoned while one whom has just begun his career be repremanded?

  55. Hmm…Kobe isn’t even on the floor for the start of the 3rd quarter.

  56. were kobe go?

  57. That’s the best fast break I’ve ever seen Shannon Brown run.

  58. hard to put into words how bad that stretch of defense by shannon really was

  59. I wonder who would win in a crazy-off: Artest or Beasley?

  60. good to see kobe on the floor. 2nd best nba record
    would be an amazing coup for this team considering where were at the AS break.

  61. it’s so odd to that bynum’s resurgence co-incides with reports that he’s experiencing water on the knee.

    what’s odd as well is that bynum’s minutes are going up, not down.

    i wish a reporter would ask what the underlying cause is.

  62. Maybe Kobe saw Melo’s 2-12 today, and figured he could at least equal it…

  63. Man… Kobe and Shannon just refuse to guard their man honestly. Wes Johnson could end up with 40 tonight.

  64. lol.. Johnny “Griffin”

  65. 3 inquiries:

    How many points does Wes Johnson have to score before Kobe decides it’s a good idea to guard him?

    How many feet does Kobe have to miss the rim by before he stops shooting?

    Why did Kobe transfer his jumpshot to Steve Blake tonight?

  66. I still do not understand why Michael Beasley never accomplished anything in Miami, he was a disaster there as the number 2 pick from the draft. Miami then just dumps him for cap relief, and at the Timberwolves he plays like an All-Star.

  67. That’s gonna be a flagrant. What is Bynum thinking?

  68. wow. drew tried to collapse his lung.

  69. Expect a suspension. How dumb.

  70. Umm Sorry, but whoever said that they think Bynum is the second most important player on this team is smoking crack. The last 5 mins shows you why he isn’t. This team doesn’t win a title without Kobe. There is a possibility to win without Drew.

  71. Just as I am talking about Beasley, guess what happens. I also guess the Lakers are not soft anymore, to any team.

  72. Why is Phil sitting Blake?

  73. Bynum levels Beasley and is ejected from the game. Not a smart play by Drew who took out some frustrastion on Beasley.

  74. What the hell is going on in this game. Phil should’ve took bynum out a minute ago when odom picked up the teams 4th foul. Andrew was tired then and kept making bail out plays because he was tired. But Lakers are playing like they don’t really don’t want to win.

  75. We could have used Drew against Portland, but he’s going to be suspended. Dumb play. On the other hand, this is what happens when the officials let the opposition hammer our bigs down low without calling a foul. Drew got frustrated, lost his head, and committed a dirty foul.

    Edit – not condoning the dirty play…the same thing happens with Dwight Howard and used to occasionally happen with Shaq.

  76. God that was a dumb dumb dumb foul. If Beasley is hurt because of that…it will be tough for Drew to shake that foul.

  77. that was a dirty play by bynum. No reason to put someone career in jeopardy and anger the basketball gods.

  78. So my bottom-dwelling team manages to stay competitive into the fourth quarter for once and Bynum tries to take out our second best player. Awesome. Then the fans cheer on as Beasley limps to the bench. Is this game in Philly?

  79. I admire his toughness and perseverance, but Kobe has no business playing in this game. We’re going to lose unless Pau all of a sudden transforms into Black Swan

  80. Ever wonder if the Lakers subconsciously create adversity for themselves to give them motivation?

  81. To be honest, the lakers kind of deserve this right now. They aren’t play smart basketball at all. Instead of playing sound defense Kobe decides to pressure Webster 30 feet out and then decides to reach. The lakers are playing a terrible brand of basketball and if it were a loss that I would be happy that the opposing team won it would be this one. Minnesota for the most part is executing their sets (sets the lakers should be well aware of) and are in constant scramble mode, switching every play which they shouldn’t be doing.

  82. i don’t believe my eyes.


  84. I literally said out loud ‘Oh dear God no!’ before that Fisher basket.

  85. WOW Derek Fisher with a spin move for a layup on the break

  86. Joel(s) – you obviously don’t remember the last time Fisher played the Wolves. I think Ridnour is like a rejuvenation machine for him. And 2/3 of the other point guards in the NBA.

  87. No, no, yes . . how true, and we better beat this team that has only won 17 games so far this season.

  88. Yet another ‘no, no, no… YES’ shot, this time from Odom.


    and i was the only one in LA besides Lamar and khloe thinking… yes yes yes shoot it!!!!!

  90. Probably the most and least satisfying win of the season. And only ‘most’ because of the playoff seeding implications

  91. i HATED that foul by Bynum only because a) it was dirty and b) he used it against it the t-wolves.

    he should have done that in Miami a few games ago. That would have sent a real message.

  92. So how long does an injury of the order Kobe had typically take to fully recover?

    (Darius, indulge me and say 1-2 weeks)

  93. D. Fish was like D. ROSE in that spin move

  94. Man, whatever. 49-20. God bless and good night.

  95. whew. At least they won. It was a full moon tonight maybe that explains the lakers strange play. It was bad but more strange than bad. They better get it together by Sunday though.

  96. Lakers survive but more than likely will lose Bynum to suspension for the next game after his flagrant 2 foul.
    The good news Lakers currently the #2 seed.

  97. joel.

    its the super moon. google that s— its crazy.!!!…

  98. I don’t understand the point of Drew’s foul. Like Stu said, he could have achieved the same thing by going up and actually trying to block the shot.

    Disappointed in Drew, but he was clearly getting frustrated and fatigued.

    A win is a win, though. I’m not sure whether Drew’s suspension against Portland will be worth it.

  99. 102.

    Now I know that explains tonight. Thanks!

  100. #97. I think it’s 1-2 weeks. Ha.

    On a more serious note, I’m surprised he’s even playing now and running without a limp. That sprain looked awful when it happened.

    That said, I don’t think this game was as much about the ankle as it was a tough match up for Kobe. Look at the boxscore from the last Lakers/Wolves game. Kobe had a bad shooting night in that game as well. The common theme was Johnson’s D. He’s long, has good foot speed, and looks up to Kobe. He takes this match up personally and wants to play well.

  101. heh. phil thinks drew won’t be suspended.

  102. I don’t care how frustrated Andrew was, that foul was stupid. The game is tied, he’s needed on the floor, and he knows that he’s not going to get away with ramming a guy in mid-air with a flying shoulder tackle. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

    On a brighter note, Matt Barnes played great. I’ve missed him!

  103. Just thinking about Drew’s flagrant 2 and upcoming suspension, and why PJ left him in the game when he was clearly tired and frustrated. I’m sure PJ kept him in the game because he wants him to get used to playing while fatigued, because he’ll need to do that in the playoffs. Clearly, Drew needs more practice at this. The suspension will be a learning experience, and I sure hope Beasley recovers quickly.

  104. im gonna give props to michael beasley. He basically said that it was a playoff foul, and that the lakers are preparing for the playoffs, and he didn’t make a big deal about it. He didn’t make it an issue and just took it like a man. Suprising to see, but that was pretty classy by beasley. good for him.

  105. the league didn’t suspend andrew for that hit on gerald wallace, iirc.

  106. @109. I don’t think that hit on Wallace was done with intent. This one sure appeared to be, and I’ll breathe a sigh of relief if Drew only gets suspended for one game.

  107. Given the awesome play of the LA Bigs, both defensively and offensively, I’ve come to wonder whether Mr. Bean would decide to complement their excellence to an almost certain inside/outside threepeat–or compete with them for shots–make any playoff game iffy.

    I shouldn’t have wondered.

    Tonite, it almost seemed that Kobe was openly playing for the Wolves. Whenever the Lakers got the triangle in rhythm, Kobe would seemingly get stripped, throw the ball away, force a teammate to shoot to avoid a shot clock violation, or just plain miss a difficult contested shot.

    When one of the LA Bigs got a rebound or putback, Kobe would seemingly retaliate by allowing his defensive assignment an open shot–or fouled him in the act of shooting.

    Kobe needs to study the architecture of Mies van der Rohe: less is more.