Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  January 29, 2012

Records: Lakers 11-9 (9th in West); T’Wolves 9-10 (11th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 102.3 (16th in NBA); T’Wolves 102.7 (15th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 100.8 (11th in NBA); T’Wolves 101.0 (13th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Matt Barnes Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
T’Wolves: Luke Ridnour, Ricky Rubio, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Injuries: Lakers: Steve Blake (out), Derrick Caracter (out); T’Wolves: J.J. Barrea (out), Malcom Lee (out), Darko Milicic (questionable), Anthony Tolliver (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: The Lakers continued their road woes with a loss to the Bucks and with that defeat a couple of disturbing trends continued. First, they simply perform much worse on the road than at home. And while some of this has to do with opponent (Miami, Portland, Denver, Orlando, and the Clippers are some of the better teams in the league) a lot is really about player performance. Kobe, Gasol, Fisher and MWP all play at or above their home standards when away from Staples. However, Bynum and Barnes and several other bench players all see a dip on production. Yes, it’s harder to rely on role players on the road but while Barnes fits into the category, Bynum does not. Plus, both are starters and need to provide consistent production regardless of where the game is played.

Second, as mentioned in the Bucks recap, the Lakers’ defense is slipping quickly. Since the Pacers game on 1/22 the Lakers have fell from 6th to 11th in defensive efficiency. They’re allowing over a point and a half more per 100 possessions which is a pretty steep fall in only a week. They’re not rotating well to shooters, are allowing penetration much too easily, and aren’t hustling back in transition and it’s not only showing in games but statistically as well. It’s no wonder this team can’t put together wins – their offense isn’t showing enough improvement and their defense is slipping quickly. Can’t be a successful team when those two things are true.

The T’Wolves Coming in: The Wolves have won 5 of their last 7 while toppling some pretty good teams. On their hit list are the Clippers, Mavericks, and Spurs while also taking out the Pistons and Hornets (who, admittedly, aren’t anywhere near “good”). And while they’re not yet a consistent team, they are dangerous when they’re able to play their style of ball and find their rhythm.

They’re led by two of the better young players in the league in Kevin Love and rookie sensation Ricky Rubio. Love came into this season in the best shape of his life and pretty much began this year where last season left off. He’s scoring well, still grabbing rebounds at an elite level, and even added a bit of a post game to compliment his long range shooting. People are now calling him the best PF in the league – something that I’m not quite on board with due to his average defense – and with the production he’s offering it’s not that far fetched.

Rubio, meanwhile, is showing what all the hype was about when he was drafted. He’s already a floor general and makes at least one (and usually more) wow play a night either hitting a teammate with a ridiculous pass or misleading the opposition with a deceptive play that frees himself up for a shot at the rim. He’s also proven to be an above average defender, able to pressure the ball full court and disrupt half court sets by instinctively getting into passing lanes or knowing when to dig down on post players to pick up steals. Right now his stats compare favorably to a young Jason Kidd and if you’ve seen him play, it’s actually an apt comparison. He simply shows off tremendous basketball instincts and knows how to manipulate the flow of the game like only some of the best can. Obviously he has a long way to go before he’s a complete player, but he’s making an impact on the Wolves.

Also deserving credit for the success of this team is Rick Adelman. Many will remember him as the coach they wanted the Lakers to hire before Mike Brown was inked last Spring. Well, Adelman has shown why he was a coveted hire by getting this team to defend better while instilling structure on offense that was sorely lacking last season under our old pal Kurt Rambis. Adelman’s done what is seemingly impossible, he’s set them free to play an open game while also reining in a lot of their bad habits and reinforced that a team game is what’s needed to win games. So far, he’s got them lapping it up like a hungry kitten at the milk bowl and the results speak for themselves. Sure, they’re not yet a playoff team, but this franchise has been a perennial sub 20 game winner. To have already put up 9 victories in their first 19 games speaks volumes about the job Adelman is doing. (I’ll now give all of you that wanted Rick to coach the Lakers a second compose yourself so you can finish the preview.)

T’Wolves Blogs: Go read A Wolf Among Wolves for great insight and analysis, as well as some great writing. It’s an excellent site.

Keys to game: I expect the Wolves to have watched last night’s Lakers/Bucks tape and come to some simple conclusions. First is that the Lakers struggled with ball pressure so he’ll enlist his guards and big men to pressure the ball anytime the Lakers hold it in order to set up an offensive action. Second, the Lakers looked old and tired last night and considering Kobe played 42 minutes, Pau played 39, and Bynum played 36, attacking them in transition and running them ragged with P&R’s and quick passes should be their strategy on defense.

Should both these things prove to be the case, the Lakers will need to be better than they were last night in recognizing the ball pressure and attacking quicker rather than clutching the ball waiting for an action to develop. Too many times last night Pau (or Murphy or McRoberts) got caught holding the ball up high looking for a cutter to break free curling around a screen all while a Buck harassed them and made the eventual pass too difficult. However, when Pau simply put his head down and attacked the rim off the dribble without waiting for a play to develop, good things happened. The Lakers need more of that and less waiting.

And this goes for all the Lakers, not just Pau or the big at the high post. Kobe needs to start attacking faster as well. All too often he too will stand at the elbow, jab stepping away and burning precious seconds off the shot clock. And while his triple threat is a dangerous part of his arsenal, he needs to make his moves faster so he’s not taking contested jumpers with under 5 seconds on the shot clock so frequently. As for the other Lakers, they need to make quicker decisions on where they’re going with the ball and then move after they pass. Right now guys are just standing around, literally in the same place for 10 seconds on a possession. Getting a bit more movement, even if it’s just sliding up and down the sideline into open space would do a lot for a team that is just too stagnant lately.

Defensively, the Lakers will get no reprieve from seeing a steady diet of P&R’s. Both Rubio and Ridnour run this action well and both will attack relentlessly when handling the ball, though in different ways. Ridnour will turn the corner and either shoot the open jumper or get into the lane where he’ll either finish or look to a shooter spacing in the corner or kick the ball out to the popping big man (usually Love) after the screen was set. So, the Lakers must treat Ridnour like a scorer and aggressively hedge on him to make him pull his dribble back and either give up the ball or reset the offense. Rubio, though, will attack via the pass using his size and instincts to throw skip passes over the top of rotating defenders and hitting his shooters in either corner. After making that pass, he’ll fake that pass and hit the roll man for an easy lay in. After that, he’ll act like he’s passing and then turn the corner and get a lay in for himself. Again, he’s savvy beyond his years and the Lakers will need to adjust. My suggestion would be giving Rubio the Rondo treatment by going under screens and making him either shoot his own jumper or make passes into crowded spaces because the defense isn’t forced to rotate. This approach makes even more sense if Kobe is guarding him.

Let’s forget strategy for a second, though. Against the Clippers I asked that the team simply play harder and ultimately that happened with a win ensuing. I asked for the same thing against the Bucks, it did not happen and a loss resulted. Tonight, I ask for the same and we’ll see what happens but what’s become clear is that the Lakers need to be an effort team if they’re to win games. They can no longer out-talent the opposition, coasting for long stretches and still expect to win. Those days are over. If they come out and play hard, they can win this game. Even if they don’t execute great, make mistakes, or have their sets fall apart. If they don’t play hard, though, they have no chance. The choice is theirs.

Where you can watch: 4:00 start time on KCAL. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710am.

Darius Soriano

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80 responses to Preview & Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Rubio against Fisher may be declared against the law after tonight’s game.

    Lakers by 8 though!

  2. Would rather see Kobe on Rubio and have the bigger player bother him. I agree Fisher cannot guard Rubio.

  3. Another center of unknown origin out playing Andrew?

  4. Excellent early sub by Coach Brown cause Drew is looking lethargic so far.

  5. Drew has been legaric for most of the season!

  6. At some point someone either has to light a fire under Drew or move the guy. He is getting out played game after game by smaller unknown players.

    All Star for him would be unfair to players who actually trying?

  7. By the way Murphy and McCroberts and Barnes must have more fouls per minute then anyone in the league.

  8. Get Murphy out of there. He is worthless.

  9. Great lineup right now. This should be the second unit. GLock, Murphy, Kapono, surrounding Bynum in the post. Pretty much what the Magic do. This way you can’t double team down on Drew.

  10. Goudelock is the only player on the Lakers bench that can score.

  11. 16 years in the league with no right hand Fisher?

  12. Kobe reverse layup for a Lakers record career FGs made.

  13. Gougo is really good. Does that mean Mitch will trade him for a bag of popcorn or another Sasha unused trade exception?

  14. Well, to lift the overall vibe of the comments, I am loving Pau’s game and Kobe’s rebounding. If only Pau could do this night in & night out. It’s games like this that fuel the frustration when he has games like yesterday’s (on offense at least).

  15. I’m in China for work and only following the boxscores. I have Pau and Rubio on my fantasy team. Anyone watching the game and know why Rubio ain’t getting any stats and Kobe has more rebounds than Pau and Drew combined? Hope the Lakers pull this game out as I was shocked why they lost that badly to an undermanned Bucks team last night

  16. Kobe deserves a raise !!!! : )

  17. Well there is my 8 points I predicted on the first post!

  18. Bynum with 0 rebounds!

  19. Kapono: 7:50 on the floor. All zeros in the box, nothing. That is hard to do. We got him for triplets, and what he gave us was twins.

  20. 11 ORB for the Timberwolves keeping them with striking distance of the Lakers. Gasol is having a good offensive game, hope to see more of the same in the second half.

  21. Watching Fisher on offensive is sad.

  22. Metta World Brick is the worst shooter I have ever seen.

  23. KB is just on another level. Incredible

  24. Where would this team be without KB.

    Starters. No points Fisher. No baskets Metta.

    Impressive. And still winning.

  25. Ken is obviously not watching the game. The Lakers offense is looking better than at anytime this season in part because how effective Artest has been passing out of the post.

  26. Nice time outs Brown. This guy is clueless!

  27. Way to let an 18 pt lead pretty much disappear. Idiots.

  28. Wow, the end of that quarter sucked. I was enjoying things until that point! Everything just kind of stopped for the Lakers.

  29. Whenever I see one of Ken’s post, I imagine a sad trombone playing. I think it helps.

  30. Pathetic.

  31. What was more surprising is that the Lakers got up 18 on this team. Minnesota’s not a bad squad.

  32. Timberwolves zone got them back in this game and changed the tempo.

  33. Lakers are a good team to zone against. Bigs need to move.

  34. pathetic effort on the boards

  35. Andrew is a lazy over rated dude. 3 rebounds in 30 minutes. Terrible effort for him again. Anyone want Jimmy’s boy?

  36. Sick of watching AB on the boards.

  37. Minnesota has 21 offensive rebounds.

  38. Between the inability to grab defensive boards and the constant turnovers, LA really struggles to build momentum and protect/build leads. Just fixing those things, regardless of PG play, or poor outside shooting, would make a world of difference for this squad.

  39. Once again it appears our bigs are getting punked.

  40. Kobe has more boards than Pau and Drew combined. That’s absolutely pathetic.

  41. They need to get the ball to Pau right now. Kobe is 3 for his last 9.

    But yes, the bigs are getting schooled on the glass. Kobe has 11 boards.

    Orlando lost 106-85 at home tonight.

  42. How can Brown sit there and watch AB go through the motions.22 offensive rbs and he has 3!

    What a big lazy waste of money?

  43. We can’t be overly reliant upon Kobe down the stretch. Others have to stay agressive .. And get some damn defensive boards.

  44. i know Mike Brown dont have much to work with but what is he doing? MWP?? Barnes can not possibly do worse

  45. Getting outrebounded 50-36 at the moment, and ESPN is crediting LA with zero fast break points. It feels weird to say that 3pt shooting is why LA are in this, because across the other categories, it doesn’t look too pretty!

    Obviously we need to execute down the stretch, and eliminate the 2nd chance points that Minnesota are racking up at will.

  46. Lakers score 100+ points!!!!!

  47. Thank you Kobe!

    Everything is tough for this team?



  48. I swear, I’ve never seen a 7-footer get swatted by guys half his size as much as Bynum does. Maybe it’s because he’s such an unathletic and uncoordinated doofus that can’t jump. Something that D12 is not…

  49. So not only is Kobe our best 1, 2, and 3, but with 14 boards, it looks like he’s our best 4 and 5 too. Good job, bigs!

  50. Kobe 14 rbs Andrew 7. Minnesota 25 offensive.

    How do you excuse that Brown.

  51. It’s really time to trade AB. No way Orlando will take him if they have cable TV.

  52. This team is still a joke. Not only do they blow an 18 pt lead, but then they try to give away the game again at the end. They’re so pathetic that they’re probably gonna be popping champagne in the locker room after this game as if they’ve won the NBA Finals. Good to know that we’ve become the Wizards…

  53. Huge win

    35 and 14 for KBB – Wow – Beyond Description

  54. Didn’t get to watch the whole game – as I just turned it on with 3 minutes left. But for those last 3 minutes, the Lakers were getting any shots that they wanted.

    What was the momentum change back in the Lakers favor once they were down 2?

    Always happy to get a much needed win.

  55. Clearly we’ll take the win, but didn’t we make hard work of it? It’s something that was even an issue under Phil, that LA rarely seemed to be able to crush the opposition once they had them on the mat. Some of the issues have been discussed ad nauseum above, but Drew’s work today merits special mention. Poor boxing out, getting blocked going up soft… just not what we want from him. The final numbers look ok (particularly the scoring), but it should look a lot better.

    Once again, thank goodness for number 24. Assists were down on normal, but those rebounds were SO needed.

  56. I think you’re going to see teams go small against us like what Milwaukee and Minnesota did. Our bigs can’t guard mobile bigs. And plus, Drew and Pau don’t do a good enough job of taking advantage of their size. They’re constantly missing easy bunnys and getting outworked on the glass.

    I take no satisfaction in this win. Only positive is Orlando keeps losing. Dwight can’t be happy about that.

  57. Ken)
    Let’s say you’re right and Bynum had a bad game. He scored 21 points and out rebounded Gasol. I hope for our sake this was a bad game for him. Imagine when he plays well. Bynum is by far the second best Center in the NBA and the starting Center for the Western Conference. You can rag on anybody not named Kobe, Bynum, and Gasol… But it just kills your credibility saying Bynum can’t play. And I mean kills it. We have both been telling anyone who will listen how bad Fisher is. I am now re thinking that stance with the heresy you’ve been spuing

  58. Minnesota’s guys are too quick for Pau and Drew, and they don’t box out. They deserve some flack.

    But people should look at the other two starters, instead of hammering on Pau and Drew.

  59. Can’t blow a 18 point lead so easy. Like I said earlier Lakers will need Kobe to be superman tonight and he was.

    Where was Bynum tonight? He has no presence down low.

    42 mins for Kobe after 41 last night. SMH!!

  60. We have Charlotte next at home with a days rest, Then we get another 2 days off, and then starts the 6 game road marathon.

  61. Part of the blame for almost losing a game with an 18-pt lead is that Brown left the starters in all game yesterday, even when it clear they had no shot of winning. I think Pau and Drew just ran out of gas in the second half, which is why they got creamed on the boards.

    The debate is over whether this team lacks talent versus coaching. I’m starting to think it’s both.

    On the bright side, this is the Lakers second road win, plus they scored more than 100 points! Congratulations, Lakers!

  62. It was Kwame and Mihm out there, not Bynum and Pau…

    Fisher replaces Smush, and we still have Luke Walton.

    At least Kobe’s back in 06 mode as well.


  63. Minnesota had 56 paint points. No point of having 2 seven footer if they continue to get outrebounded and pushed around down low.

  64. I don’t recall Kwame and Mihm combining for 49 points on 19/29 very often.

  65. Hey guys – this was a “W” over a decent team on the road, B2B.

    Also AB played well which is a v good thing.

    And if nothing else – just enjoy the legend at work for 35+14

  66. Minnesota had 25 ORBS and 4 TOs–two numbers that reflect the Lakers’ lack of quickness, among other things.

  67. Indiana 106, Orlando 85.

  68. Wow, Lakers get trashed for winning a b2b on the road. Not enough style points, I guess.

  69. lakers shouldn’t get credit for beating a 9-10 Minnesota team but that’s how far expectations have stooped. Our bigs just let players walts into the paint and score. Where is Bynum? He had 21 points but he disappears too much. His impact on the game is minimal at best. He doesn’t impose fear into players coming in to the lane. I just don’t get the hype about Drew. He is a role player at best. nothing more nothing less

  70. Kobe is just ridiculous.

  71. Aaron says (of himself and Ken) @ 57: “We have both been telling anyone who will listen how bad Fisher is.”

    I’m not so sure we have a choice about “listening”; I guess the option would be to skip over anything posted by you, although then I would have to miss some interesting stuff as well.

    Um, I think it’s pretty much accepted that Fisher is part of the problem now. No need to continue to beat a horse that’s beyond dead.

    I mean, there may be some folk who disagree w you about Fish, but then there are people who still think the earth is flat! I would guess there are about the same number of people in each of those categories; and you will never, ever convince them otherwise.

    In other words, can we pleeeeease give the Fisher bashing a rest?

  72. Can Kobe keep this up over the course of the season?

    Amazing, amazing performances.

    He may even make the Hall of Fame at this rate …

  73. Kobe is 93 away from Shaq for 5th. He also passed West (FT) and Kareem (FG) for all time on the Laker list. When u start passing West, Kareem, and Shaq, u are one of the greatest ever.

  74. Can someone please explain how Andrew gets 9 rebounds in the first half while Minnesota grabs 24 offensive rebounds?

    Also how can a NBA player play 33 minutes without a basket?

    Metta Mess!

  75. Aaron

    Go back and watch the game! AB was standing around. Many times he was running down court when the ball went up on defense. Hence 24 offensive rebounds. The guy is 7 foot tall and Kobe had twice the rebounds.

    Is it my credibility or your lack of understanding what a center is suppose to do?

  76. Robert @ 74 – let’s hope Kobe is able to surpass Jordan’s total points.

    It will make for lots of amusing commentary if it happens.

    And it may well.

  77. Before there was the Now can we have a If Jim Buss thinks he is really that good then trade him for a center and a serviceable PG or SG. The guy is our last line of defense and he is allowing everybody get by him.

  78. Ken, your singleminded focus on Andrew Bynum is hugely tiresome. On a team with Kobe and Pau, Andrew is averaging 16 points and 13 boards. Dwight Howard (the focus of his team every night) averages 20 and 16.

    He didn’t play his best game by any stretch but still finished a back to back set of road games and averaged 18 and 8.

    There are plenty of other places to direct your criticism…..

  79. Your right Funky I just have a problem with lazy when Kobe is working his but off on both ends iof the court. I will let it go.