Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  March 9, 2012

Records: Lakers 23-16 (5th in West), Timberwolves 21-19 (8th in West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 103.6 (15th in NBA), Timberwolves 104.5 (11th in NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 101.1 (10th in NBA), Timbewolves 103.2 (15th in NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Derek Fisher, Kobe Bryant, Metta World Peace, Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum
Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, Martell Webster, Wesley Johnson, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic
Injuries: Lakers: none; Timberwolves: J.J. Barrea (doubtful), Nikola Pekovic (questionable)

The Lakers Coming in: Let’s play a little game, shall we? Below are the stats for two teams. In order, they are points scored, points allowed, FG%, 3 point FG%, offensive efficiency, and defensive efficiency:

Team A: 97.3, 86.9, 47.9%, 32.9%, 106.7, 95.4
Team B: 90.9, 96.2, 42.5%, 27.5%, 100.7, 106.6

Can you name these teams?

If you answered “the Lakers” you’d be right in both cases. Team A is the Lakers at home, while Team B is the Lakers on the road.

The question here is which Laker team is the real one, and the answer, while not satisfying is that both of them are. The key is to try and carry some of what works at home on the road with them. Based off what the tape tells me that’s better ball movement, a commitment to defense and rebounding, and better concentration in general. Or, as I like to call it, the first halves from the Detroit and Washington games.

If the Lakers can channel some of that play on the road; if they can bring that confidence and commitment we can see a step up in quality from this team. If they can’t, the Lakers may face a road in the playoffs that doesn’t allow them to have home court advantage in any round (should they make the playoffs at all in this rough and tumble Western Conference). The choice – and it really is a choice – is there’s. Let’s hope they choose wisely.

The Timberwolves Coming in: The Wolves have won three in a row with two wins over the Blazers and one over the Clippers. That mini-streak has propelled them into the 8th seed and has them thinking playoffs again for the first time since the KG era. Most of this run has been triggered by the excellent play of Kevin Love. Over that three game stretch he’s scored 110 points (while hitting 13 three pointers) and grabbed 43 rebounds. Those numbers are simply amazing.

Love’s fantastic play has obscured the fact, though, that not everything is completely right with this team lately. Ricky Rubio is struggling something terrible right now. Over that same 3 game stretch he’s only made 5 of his 23 shot attempts and in his last two games has only handed out 10 assists total (he normally averages 8 a game). It’s not clear if he’s hitting the proverbial rookie wall or if this is just a normal slump that all players go through, but it’s clear that something’s not right with his game right now.

Ultimately, though, this team is trending up. They could use more production at shooting guard (rumors have them exploring their trade options) but every team has some holes they’d like to solidify down the stretch of the season. What matters more is that they’re finding their stride at the right time of the year and if they continue to improve they’ll not only make the playoffs but be a tough out once there.

Timberwolves Blogs: Check out A Wolf Among Wolves for everything you need on this team.

Keys to game: This will be the third time these teams have faced off this year. The last time they met it was a shade over a week ago, Kevin Love sat out, and the Lakers cruised to a win. So while that game doesn’t give us too much insight, over the two games it’s pretty clear that some trends have developed that inform what to look for tonight:

*Kevin Love is a problem. He rebounds like mad and exploits one of the Lakers’ biggest defensive weaknesses this season – the pick and pop. The Lakers must account for him on the glass on every possession and must rotate to him quickly on the perimeter and/or stick to him in P&R actions so as to not give up easy jumpers behind the arc. The Lakers must be especially aware of him as a trailer in early offense as he’s known to rebound defensively, make an outlet pass, and then run behind the play to the three point line and take open jumpers (ala Dirk). The Lakers must mark him in these situations and make him put the ball on the floor and finish off the bounce or become a playmaker for his teammates.

*Andrew Bynum has an advantage inside. He’s totaled 34 points on only 23 shots over the two games against the Wolves. Whether he’s facing Pekovic or Darko, the plan should be the same: get early position and use his superior size and length the finish over the top while drawing fouls when possible. The same can be said of Pau, of course. Love is not a defensive ace by any stretch and he too is surrendering height and length to the Spaniard. Considering Love’s such a threat on the other end of the floor, it’d be nice if Pau could go at him to make him play some defense and, hopefully, expend some energy dealing with Pau’s all court game.

*The Wolves will compromise their normal lineup to match up better with Kobe and Ron, so the Lakers must adjust to this personnel change. In the 2nd half of the last game, Adelman substituted Webster for Ridnour (who was forced to cover Ron in the post and on the backboards) to play better defense. Webster’s game varies a great deal from what Ridnour provides and needs to be accounted for behind the arc rather than the penetration/P&R based game of the speedy PG. So, whether it’s Kobe or Ron that guards Martell doesn’t matter as long as either pick him up behind the arc, don’t surrender open looks, and try to turn him into a playmaker.

*Offensively, Kobe must attack but must do so off the ball in the Lakers sets. Kobe’s put up good numbers against this team – averaging 33 points in the two games – and generally working over whoever guarded him. However, he’s been better working off the ball early and getting the rangy Wolves’ wings to chase him off picks or working them in the post rather than trying to isolate too much 20 feet and out. If Kobe sticks to that sort of attack tonight, I expect that he’ll have a fair amount of success. However, if he’s caught too often trying to work off the bounce from the three point line, another inefficient night may follow.

*The bench must match what the Wolves’ reserves bring to the table. Beasley and Williams are explosive scorers and they’ll mostly be matched up against Barnes and Murphy (or Gasol). Williams offers another pick and pop option and is an athletic finisher on the break whereas Beasley can do a lot of damage working in isolation using his natural scoring touch from the wing and off the bounce to get into the paint and shoot over the top of his man. The Lakers reserves must not only work hard to slow them down but must also provide some offense to counter the production they’re sure to produce. If the Lakers back ups can hang with the Wolves, the game should tilt in LA’s favor.

Tonight offers the Lakers a chance to salvage their road trip by getting a quality W before heading home to face the Celtics on Sunday. Nothing can erase the bad losses to the Pistons and Wizards but today can provide a step back in the right direction for this team. Here’s hoping they take advantage of their opportunity and get this win.

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

Darius Soriano

Posts

106 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. Lakers might catch a break. Kevin Love is doubtful for the game, back spasms.

  2. If that’s the case, and I hate to say this, but that might b the break this struggling team needs. Just for team morale, we need this 1 badly … Love ‘The Whiteout’

  3. it is huge that Love is not playing, but 5 tournovers already

  4. So many Lakers turnovers to start this game

  5. Actually I would rather have love in the game. Lakers tend to play down to the level of their competition. We might play harder with Love in the game.

  6. Team not playing hard. Not playing for one another. FRACTURED GROUP

  7. this is not happening

    is it?

  8. This team had problems at the end of last year, trading LO and getting rid of Brown were not the right people to subtract.

    Now, we know why PJ retired.

  9. This team has quit on Brown and Kobe. Quit!

  10. Who wants to be traded? The entire team

  11. McHops!

  12. =-( McHops.

  13. Brown must be fired. Fish is pathetic 3 TO first 3 minutes. Metta is a joke. This is the worst I have ever seen a Laker team.

  14. Timberwolves convert 7 Lakers turnovers into 10 points and make 12-14 Fts and lead by 12 after 1Q.

    Lakers need a spark from the second unit.

  15. Darius,
    You’re the king of stats. That’s why I love you. That an your smile. I was at the Minny game in LA. You said Bynum had a size and length advantage inside. But the Big Russian and Darko looked to be the same height and length and size as Bynum. Stat check please???

  16. Lakers have ran 1 play all game. Weak side post ups

  17. Ken: Welcome back (is that you?)

  18. Drew is producing with his touches

  19. Bynum with a nice first step driving past Darko for the dunk and 1

  20. Ken: Since you have been away, I was wondering whether your opinion had changed about MWP, or our PG’s, or Jimbo?

  21. Lakers offense was running fluently through Drew (minus the missed free throws). Lets see what happens now that he’s been subbed out.

  22. What do u think?

  23. At the risk of repetition… I’ve never seen a worse 6-1 passing basketball player than Derek Fisher. Anyone have any suggestions on anyone that can rival him?

  24. I don’t understand the logic behind playing Kapono ahead of Goudelock on the second unit. Can anyone play devils advocate with that one?Otherwise I liked the Blake, Barnes, McBob and Bynum line-up, just stick Glock in there instead. Two shooter/shot creators, two energy/rebounding/slashing forwards, and Big Drew down low, who looks unstoppable right now.

  25. Kobe 29,000

  26. Another brilliant shooting performance by Kobe. Unbelievable.

  27. Wow… Amazing… Maybe Gasol for Williams is a steal for the Lakers? Could we get two highway robberies out of Pau?

  28. Derrick Williams is going to be a great player in a few years

  29. Those heavy minutes kobe was playing early are catching up.

    He’s gassed out there fighting through it but he’s gassed.

  30. Last year D’Antoni rode Amare hard to start the season and around this time he tired out and was never the same after.

    Looks like Brown did it to Kobe.

  31. Kobe: 4/14 1 rebound

    Bynum/Gasol 9/14 9 rebounds

  32. sbdunks,
    I’m not saying this logic is right… But the logic is Kapono spreads the floor better for Bynum as the scouting reports for Jason are you can’t leave him for even a second. GLock can shoot well… But people still leave him open

    drreyye,
    You can’t really include Gasol there as Bynum is 7 of those 9 baskets and only one of those 5 misses :) Just saying.

  33. Lakers8884,
    It might be sooner than that

  34. Kobe is not playing well. An apologist would deny that. Someone analyzing the game in a balanced way might say: Kobe 4-14, Lakers even in RB in spite of no Love for Minny, 10 TO, 67% Ft and 20% 3Pt – all pitiful stats.
    However if you are a Hater you only focus on 1 item.

    PS: We are playing badly, because I heard Kobe cooked dinner for the team tonight and now everyone has the runs.

  35. Bynum/Gasol 9/14 9 rebounds

    Pekovic/Williams 10/18 15 rebounds

  36. That second offensive possession should be show to Kobe over and over. He can literally raise his FG percentage and maintain about the same scoring average by watching that play over and over again. Gasol throws it into Bynum… Bynum goes baseline and attracts help defenders only to throw the ball to Kobe who makes a wide open three pointer.

  37. I agree Aaron, when I first read that rumor about a trade for him I got excited a few weeks ago. With a bigger role on offense he could be scary good and his jumper is only improving, big time athlete (minus his embarrassing dunk contest)

  38. I like how 34 and 35 don’t mention any mistakes the other guys have made this quarter.

  39. We have 14 TO’s, we are even in boards (even though they do not have Love), and we are 67% from the line.

    On a bright note – we are 50% from 3

  40. The issue with Kobe is getting good shots, like that one.

  41. Thank God for Derek Fisher! 3 threes!

  42. rr)
    Because we are talking about how to improve overall as a team… Not just for one game. Need to think big picture.

  43. Need to think big picture.
    __

    Sure. That means whole team, not just “Bynum is awesome!!!!” and “Kobe shoots too much.”

    This quarter mostly shows, again, what happens when the Lakers get production from the 1.

  44. Aaron: Your comment was actually reasonable, but if want to focus on the team, then the comments should not be Kobe-centric. He is 7-18.

    We have 15 Turnovers. We are even on the boards in a game we should be crushing them in that stat. We are bricking free throws. That is the TEAM.

  45. Last two possessions reflect lack of a creator.

  46. Mike Brown really needs to monitor Kobe’s minutes no matter what if has a chance at playoffs.

    These past 3 games he’s not as spry and settling.

  47. 17 second chances points in the first half by the Timberwolves hurt the Lakers.

  48. Robert,
    Because I’m talking big picture offensive focus for this team. I really don’t care about one game. Have I ever been happy with a win in the regular season? No. I just don’t care about a regular season result.

  49. Kobe has a terrible attatude out there. He clearly only cares about his own points. This is a damaged team with a bad coach. Blow them up now!

  50. Yea Kobes

  51. KOBE SMASH

  52. nice quarter from fish and 24

  53. That is a good point Mojo, and we are down 19-10 on the bench.

  54. Beasley is playing to get OUT of Minnesota. He’s auditioning for the Lakers, don’t think he hasn’t heard the rumors.

  55. mike brown does have the oddest rotations…5 games ago mcroberts and kapono were dead to him…now theyre starting quarters

  56. If Kapono is going to continue to miss wide open looks then his ass needs to b remanded right back to the bench.

  57. Good examples:

    Forced 3 by Kobe–

    Forced entry pass–TO

  58. barnes is hustling out there while pek is taking gasol’s soul

  59. Goudelock is trade bait, and McHops is auditioning for another team.

  60. Kobe got that with 3 on the shot clock.

    McRob instead of Pau…maybe the FO told Brown that Pau just got traded. ;-)

  61. Nah..they’re hiding Goudelock.

  62. rr, LOL

  63. wow – where does he get that energy – incredible- classic kobe

  64. wow – where does he get that energy – incredible- vintage kobe

  65. Bynum with the block, gets down the floor for the lob dunk, dime from Fisher

  66. Good to see that the Offense isn’t totally reliant upon Kobe here n the 4th quarter.

  67. Nice work by Kobe and Andrew.

  68. PG who can break down and create…for Minnesota.

  69. Why is Stu Lanz clowning Gasol the entire game? Are the Lakers already trying to trick the fans into thinking Gasol isn’t that good anymore ?

  70. back to back 3s from Fish and Metta

  71. 2 ridinour 3s over fish

    2 missed 3s by ron

  72. How many offensive rebounds can 2 seven footers give up.

    Gave up 1 last game vs washington

  73. Bad possession…that had nothing to do with Kobe. Rubio bailed them out with inexperienced play.

  74. Gasol is right to be mad at Bynum. Bynum should have stayed home on that okay and not challenged the shot. Gasol was coming over to challenge the shot and he was closer. Easy offensive rebound for the Big Russian. Btw… I don’t think he is even Russian. But he looks so Russian he has to be called that. Great SNL Phil Hartman sketch.

  75. Hey, defense. That was cool.

  76. Good D by Pau ..

  77. Yes

    we needed that

  78. Kobe Icicles on the FTs. Lakers survive and win.

  79. I love Pau, and I’m greatful for what he’s done for the franchise but the guy isn’t worth his contract. Got outplayed by a guy who makes 25% of what he does.

  80. Good win.

    But no Love, and no Rubio on last possession.

    So…Robert, how many days do they have to save this franchise? ;-)

  81. kehntangibles March 9, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    I love how even when the Lakers win they manage to irritate me.

  82. Close road win. I’ll take that however it comes.

  83. Kobe with a nice bounce back game after two awful games…. 11 for 26 shooting. Pretty good for him. That’s where we want him percentage wise.

  84. Good win; KB 10-10 FT with the 4 straight to win it; Fish 3 from 3; Bynum 26-10, Bench only lost by 4

  85. It worked out in the end, but why not foul when the Wolves inbounded with 3 seconds left? Sure, Ridnour was only able to toss up a prayer, but sometimes prayers are answered. You foul him as he crosses midcourt, even if he makes two at the line, Lakers are up one with the ball, the Wolves have no timeouts and there’s only a second, maybe 1.5 left on the clock.

    And again, why Kapono over Goudelock?

  86. Making opposing PG’s look like allstars is something we’re used to seeing. But making opposing centers, undersized and relatively unknown centers, look like allstars is not something we typically see from this group.

  87. Travis – it is when it comes to giving up rebounds. Look at anyone on the Wizards the other day. Or the regular monster games Millsap has against us. The Lakers just know how to make solid players look outstanding.

    Still, much better down the stretch today than in the last couple. Obviously.

  88. @ 93

    Pekovic is actually a pretty good player; he is one of the main reasons that the Wolves have a shot at post-season.

    And any quick 4 gives the Lakers trouble. Pau and Drew are fine, fine players, but they the slowest 4/5 combination in the NBA. That is one reason the Lakers have so much trouble protecting the D glass.

    Lakers fans should be rooting for the Wolves to get in–that means the pick Stern got from the Clippers would NOT be a lottery pick.

  89. travis_see marcin gortat

  90. Not much you can take from a game when their best player doesn’t suit up. That off. rebound could’ve been crucial. Bynum is blossoming before our eyes

  91. Mojo,
    Sorry. I’m not good at math. Average game for Kobe.

  92. Byron Scott is a good coach.

    Good team win! Andrew reserved enough energy in the 4th on offense to score.

    Can’t wait until the trade deadline has passed, so the Lakers can start playing basketball.

  93. rr: Yes – the days to save the franchise are dwindling. I am still hoping for what would now be the last minute blockbuster. I appreciate the fact that you have been with me since preseason calling for roster change, so let’s keep that chant up until the 15th.

  94. Gortat and Millsap are good players. They average 16/10.

    Pekovic more than doubled his season averages for points and rebounds tonight. He’s a 12/7 guy.

  95. The offensive rebound Pek had, had nothing to do with quickness. It was a blown coverage. Both Andrew and Pau went for the ball leaving an open lane for Pek.

    While quickness does hurt us sometimes, our size inside is very hard to shoot over. Also we usually have either Pau or Andrew running with the second unit. Could you imagine that unit with say McBob at center and Murphy at the 4? There are perks to having two quality 7 footers.

  96. The problem of giving up too many offensive rebounds can be partially attributed to our poor perimeter defense. When opposing guards penetrate, our bigs are forced to rotate to contest shots around the rim, meaning they leave their man unchecked. Even if the other big rotates over to help, he’s still going to be battling both opposing bigs for the board. The situation is even worse when one of our bigs gets stuck out on the perimeter on a switch when the opposing guard runs a high screen and roll.

    We, too, could enjoy this advantage if we had a penetrating point guard, but alas we do not. Fish and Blake don’t have much of a teardrop nor are they threats to finish around the rim, so the threat of them penetrating is practically non-existent. Kobe is able to, but his first step isn’t as quick as it used to be (he showed a couple of nice flashes tonight though) and his handle sometimes fails him due to multiple finger injuries. Glock can work it a bit, but if he doesn’t play its a moot point. If (hopefully not if, but when) we get a penetrating PG it’ll free up our bigs big time, for lobs and putbacks.

  97. I’d rather have 2 7-footers than a bunch of guys under 6’10” pretending to be big men (see Miami or Boston)

    But tonight, there’s something wrong when you have a guy like Pekovic blowing up. Not blaming it on big men, or citing any “quickness” issues. But as a whole, our defense just failed to keep points out of the paint tonight.

  98. The offensive rebound Pek had, had nothing to do with quickness.

    ____

    Didn’t say it did. But guys like Millsap and Booker killing the Lakers on the O glass–that does.

    Not blaming Pau and Drew; every player has weaknesses. But the Lakers being slow at EVERY position is a huge issue.

  99. Travis,
    As a starter, Pekovic averages 15 and 9. He was above those averages tonight but without Love that’s actually somewhat expected as he was more involved in the P&R and had more rebounding chances.

  100. How would Kobe feel if he was the 2nd best player on his team by season’s end?

    Good win Lakers never win on the road. Kobe came up big late so did Bynum remind you of a tandem from the early 2000s.

  101. As usual I agree with Darius. I didn’t think it needed to be said every time but Apperently it does.

  102. Darius… We used to have that basketball friendship that when I asked for a stat check on something you knew the answer to you would hit me back I moments. I know you know the answer. You pretty much have every stat memorized. Even more than me. Stat check? Stat check :(

  103. Aaron,
    Pekovic is listed at 6’11” but I don’t have any wingspan stats on him. Darko is listed at 7′ and 3/4 inches with 7’5″ wingspan. Those measurements are on par with Bynum but he’s not nearly as heavy/strong as Drew.

  104. Thanks Darius. Interesting. The big Russian looked as tall as Drew at Staples for some reason. He is def burly mean dude. Very scary in person.

    Darius loves me again. He really loves me :)