Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

Darius Soriano —  March 27, 2013

Records: Lakers 36-35 (8th in the West), Timberwolves 25-44 (12th in the West)
Offensive ratings: Lakers 105.3 (8th in the NBA), Timberwolves 99.6 (25th in the NBA)
Defensive ratings: Lakers 103.5 (18th in the NBA), Timberwolves 102.8 (14th in the NBA)
Projected Starting Lineups: Lakers: Steve Nash, Jodie Meeks, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Dwight Howard
Timberwolves: Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour, Andrei Kirilenko, Derrick Williams, Nicola Pekovic
Injuries: Lakers: Metta World Peace (out), Jordan Hill (out for the season); Timberwolves: Kevin Love (out), Brandon Roy (out), Malcolm Lee (out)

The Lakers Coming in: We told you yesterday that Ron is out indefinitely with a torn meniscus. Today Mike D’Antoni was asked if he expected Ron to return before the regular season ended and he said “no”. Today we learned that Ron will be out at least six weeks, so we know where that pessimism came from. D’Antoni also said that Jodie Meeks would start in Ron’s place with Kobe sliding up to small forward. This was one of the expected outcomes so it’s not that big a surprise. I’d still like to see more Earl Clark, however, if only because defense is still important and Clark offers more versatility on that end than Meeks (or Blake). We’ll see how the rotations play out tonight, though.

What Meeks starting does do is put more pressure on Kobe, especially from a minutes and defense standpoint. And while the minutes matter in the big picture, where Kobe will be tested most is on defense. With neither Ron nor Clark in the lineup, the task of guarding the best perimeter opponent will now likely fall to Kobe. This should engage him more on that end and that can be a good thing. This has the potential to go badly if Kobe takes plays off when working off the ball as the player he’d be leaving would have a greater ability to hurt the team’s defense. Also, if the plan is for Kobe to guard the other team’s main perimeter threat, it will also require he expend more energy on that side of the ball which can have an adverse affect on his offense. One of the reasons Kobe stopped guarding PG’s was, presumably, because he voiced his concerns about carrying such a heavy load on both sides of the floor with the result being a decline in his play.

What this means long term we don’t yet know for certain, but the writing on the wall says Kobe is in for a lot of heavy lifting and at this point in the year (and his career), that may be too much to ask. I’m not doubting he can do it, but I am concerned.

The Timberwolves Coming in: The Wolves are as healthy as they’re likely to be for the rest of the year as Chase Budinger has finally returned from his knee ailment and Kirilenko is also back in the lineup. They’re still without Kevin Love, but recent reports have him acknowledging that he may not play for the rest of the season as he nurses his broken hand. With little left to play for this year, it may be best to sit Love out even if he is capable of getting back on the floor, but that’s a different discussion for a different day.

With better health has come better play, at least last night. The Wolves dispatched the Pistons by over 20 points, using an efficient offensive attack, balanced scoring, and disruptive defense to do the deed. With a nearly full allotment of players, the Wolves were better able to spread the floor on one end and pressure the ball on the other. Add to that the attacking style of Ricky Rubio (who looks to be nearly fully recovered from his ACL surgery) and Luke Ridnour from the top of the floor and the Wolves look closer to the team they were supposed to be this season. Nothing can replace having Kevin Love in the lineup, but this group today is better than their record.

Timberwolves Blogs: Go read A Wolf Among Wolves. You won’t be disappointed.

Keys to game: Even though the Wolves played last night, blowing out the Pistons kept their starters’ minutes relatively low which should remove the prospect of fatigue playing a major role tonight. Plus, the Lakers have beaten this team 21 straight times and that should erase any lack of motivation from their end. Getting a win against the Lakers would provide too much satisfaction for the Wolves to be anything other than ready for this contest. Add in the Lakers’ injury woes and the prospect of burying them even further surely appeals to Minnesota.

Forget motivation, though. This Wolves team is well equipped to get this W, simply off the strength of their roster now that everyone is healthy. When looking at the match ups, they have the types of players who can attack the specific weaknesses of the players who will be guarding them. Consider the following:

  • Rubio has quickness and has been much more assertive in going to the rim. He’ll pressure Nash’s defense all night by attacking him in the open floor and looking to penetrate in isolation and in the P&R.
  • Luke Ridnour can make spot up jumpers and can also penetrate off ball reversals or in the P&R. Meeks has a tendency to lose his man off the ball and make poor decisions when closing out. Ridnour will test his discipline all night.
  • Kirilenko does his best work off the ball as a slasher and then working off the dribble against sloppy closeouts. If Kobe plays his typical roaming style, there’s a good chance AK47 will beat him on cuts and get into the lane for quick shots before the defense can respond.
  • Derrick Williams is a stretch PF who can shoot the jumper but also has enough athleticism to attack in space and elevate for lobs. Gasol has looked slow since returning to the lineup and chasing around a superior athlete could mean trouble.

Add in Barrea’s creation off the dribble, Shved’s streaky shooting ability, Budinger’s all around game (though he’s been showing rust in his return), and Dante Cunningham’s mid-range attack off the Wolves’ bench and the Lakers will have a tough night of defense ahead of them. Slowing dribble penetration will be key, but so will off ball awareness both in closing out on shooters and in dropping down to the paint to help on the glass against Pekovic when Dwight is forced into help situations.

Offensively, the Lakers must find a balanced attack as well as a style that they can stick to for the entire game. Against the Warriors early post ups were later abandoned in favor of P&R’s and neither action found enough traction to be successful. I’d like to see Kobe find more opportunities closer to the rim instead of isolating or running countless high P&R’s but that will be difficult against Kirilenko and Budinger (who both offer good size on the wing). That said, running him off the occasional screen or working him on cuts from one side of the floor to another could be useful in getting him clean looks.

Starting Meeks should enable the Lakers to spread the floor a bit better and hopefully that will open up more driving and passing lanes into the middle of the floor. If Meeks takes up residence on the weak side, he should see a fair amount of open looks on three pointers. If he’s able to knock them down, the defense will respond accordingly and should mean that Dwight and Pau can get more touches going to the basket. It should also mean that Kobe and Nash have a bit more room to attack coming out of the P&R.

Tonight’s also a game where the bench will need to put up some points. Barrea, Budinger, Shved, and Cunningham are all scorers and will look to impact the game by getting buckets. Jamison, Blake, and Clark need to try to keep pace with Blake and Clark (especially) also providing enough on defense to slow their men. If the Lakers’ bench can balance scoring with playing solid D, it will go a long way towards getting this win.

There’s really no need to discuss how important this game is. But, understand the Lakers are only one game up in the loss column on both the Jazz and the Mavericks. This game was likely penciled in as a win long ago, but times have changed recently. The Wolves are healthier, the Lakers are less so and have lost three straight games. Righting the ship is important and that happening would be better tonight than not.

Where you can watch: 5:00pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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76 responses to Preview and Chat: The Minnesota Timberwolves

  1. My only hope for the rest of this season is Dwight would stay and the Lakers would stay healthy until the playoffs next year. The amount of bad luck this year has been insanely wrong.

  2. I’ll be glad when the season is over:

    ____

    Howard has just 17 shots total in his last two games, connecting on 12 of them (70.1 percent). Bryant has 45 attempts in those two games, making 19 (42.2 percent).

    “I don’t even want to talk about it,” Howard said after the Warriors game. “We have to figure out what we need to do to play. If you want to win games, you have to play the right way.”

    Howard has just three shots total in the fourth quarters of the five losses L.A. has in the month of March.

    Bryant spoke up in Golden State, saying that they need to feature Howard more.

    “I think he’s playing phenomenal,” Bryant said. “We have to figure out a way to get him some more looks down low though. I tried to step back as much as I possibly could and allow that to develop. He was in foul trouble and all of the sudden it’s a 19-point game and we can’t sit around much longer. But we got to figure that balance out.”

    When told about Bryant’s comments, Howard seemed to sniff out the hypocrisy.

    “He said what happened?” Howard asked, almost incredulously, before sticking to a diplomatic response. “When we lose, everything is magnified. We just got to play the game the right way, do what we did coming out of All-Star break to get some wins and go from there.”

    ___

    http://espn.go.com/blog/los-angeles/lakers/post/_/id/36215/lakers-at-a-crossroads-again

  3. Kobe Alert: A couple of you called me out with regard to the fact that I did not publish the Kobe Alert last game : ) Superstitious types might even think that the fact that the KB Alert not being published and in the first post, may have even contributed to the loss. My response: Kobe has not moved up the ladders too much of late, so there was not too much to report (in other words – it is the player’s fault). Further, Kobe was out a couple of games and I personally was not feeling too well (Injuries). Lastly, this is the Kobe Alert’s second year, but last year I did not do it for the entire year, so I don’t have the process of gathering stats, and writing the alert, down to a science yet (In other words – it is a work in process). Beyond this – I have no explanation : )

    On Monday, Kobe notched his 414th game of 30 points or more. Tonight’s opponent, the Timberwolves have 300 such games in their entire history and their top active player has only 30 (Love). Kobes has a number of important lists on which he should climb soon. KB needs to play in 8 more games to catch Hakeem for 22nd all time. Tonight, he will play in his 45,000th minute and needs a total of 74 more minutes to catch Moses for 12th. He needs 32 more field goals to move by Elvin for 6th. KB needs to hoist 153 shots to catch Elvin for 4th in that category. Kobe is rapidly closing in on Avery Johnson for 32nd on the dimes list and needs 28 more to match him. Most importantly, Kobe Bryant needs just 66 points to move by Wilt Chamberlain for 4th on the All Time NBA Scoring List.

  4. i thought this was going to be an incredible season for us laker fans but its been one of the least fun and most frustrating seasons in a long time…kobe is a cancer…a really great cancer

  5. I am not really into those kinds of arguments, but I think one could just as easily use the “cancer” line on Howard.

    But, as was the case with Shaq and Kobe, it’s both of them. Only this time, they aren’t getting results.

  6. true…but even nash has had to defer…he hasnt been able to be nash with kobe…at this point im just trying to make sense of it all and i agree cancer isnt the most accurate description but everybody kobe plays with end up defering in total…theyre not there to be best buds but they do need some chemistry…some comradery…the media is their courier pigeon…its sad

  7. Not sure what’s stopping an established player like Nash or Dwight saying Kobe needs to involve his teammates. Kobe says all the right things and I’m sure that what’s so frustrating to his teammates. Kobe does a heck of a job when things are tied or Lakers are leading but too much this season when they fall behind he gets into scoring mode.

    Only home court, aside from one game in April, was keeping me from fully believing Lakers are going to miss the playoffs. Now with this Metta injury I don’t think they’ll make it.

  8. Well, i dont know, it could be a blessing in disguise, i think the Lakers can do away with the myriad of ill advised shots Metta takes every game, i venture to say that this is the end of his Lakers tenure, that being said i really apreciates everything he done for the team, specially that game 7 against Boston his name will be forever on Lakers lore. Another winnable game but im at the point that i dont expect nothing from this team, everything good they do i see it as a bonus, expectations lowered to almost nothing

  9. darius: it’s up to the players. coach lacks credibility. coach blows up after a highly winnable game; players get blown out on their next opportunity. coach lacks credibility; comes off like someone; anyone just blowing off steam. i don’t blame him for making the effort, cept it appears to have fallen on deaf ears. coach lacks credibility.

    because the team is only as strong as it’s ever revolving weakest link, it’s really up to the streaky shooting; defensively challenged meeks to make his mark tonight or the combined efforts of the future hall of famers will need to make a strong showing in their own right versus the timberwolves of minnesota.

    despite the loss of metta world peace, a fourth loss in a row will pretty much put laker nation in a bad funk where some may begin to jump off the bandwagon and unto the caboose of a train heading to palookaville. true fans will continue to hold onto the bandwagon, nuts, bolts, wheels falling off and all.

    Go Lakers

  10. Well, once upon a time Shaq and Kobe did not like each other but these days they appear to be lamenting lost opportunities to win more championships. Is it possible that Kobe and Howard will learn to play well together long enough to win one championship? Or, will they one day look back with nostalgia and longing on a missed chance to add trophies to the Lakers organization and their own legacy.

    Robert-I hope that your health has improved. I definitely needed something to cling to after that last lethargic game by the Lakers, so sorry for putting pressure on you. I’ve followed your Kobe Alerts ever since you first started posting them, but there is a sense of urgency going forward as who knows how much longer Kobe will be in the game.

    Meeks guards Rubio, Nash draws Ridnour, Kobe guards Kirilenko, Pau gets Derrick and Dwight takes Nikola. I think Howard should play Williams and Gasol should guard Pekovic. Either way our big guys might find themselves in early foul trouble forcing the Earl Clark to the floor sooner than the game plan dictates. Since I don’t have a positive comment regarding these matchups, I’ll just say nothing.

    Darius, I hope you’re right and that Kobe remains engaged and is physically capable of playing defense for 38-40 minutes tonight. I’m not sure that’s possible after logging so many roles and minutes in order to even have the Lakers in position to fight for the 8th spot. It might be beneficial to challenge players like Morris and Ebanks to provide a defensive presence for the team, that way we’ll be able to judge them as to their worthiness for next season’s roster.

    Lakers please concentrate on defense, defense, defense!

  11. Mike d’antoni better not play a 8 man rotation again. At this point, im just tired of the season and i dont care if the lakers make it to the playoffs just to get swept by the spurs or okc. Mike should start developing players like ebanks, morris or sacre for next year when Lakers should be healthy enough to do better in the playoffs. Also no player should be playing alot of minutes meaning no 35-40 min games from kobe, nash, gasol and even dwight.

  12. Chearn: Above was all in fun. Kobe’s accomplishments are serious stuff though and we are coming up on a significant event, in moving ahead of Wilt. Let’s hope we can get a couple wins in the process. Thanks for reading. You are right about the “how much longer” question. I am still hoping for the 20 year career!

  13. Lakers D was already terrible, no MWP means it will be that much worse. Unless we can replace those “lost points” by having a more consistent shooter out there in MWPs stead we are going to be worse.

    I am hoping this forces MDA to give Ebanks some burn for D, something I have been calling for.

  14. true fans will continue to hold onto the bandwagon, nuts, bolts, wheels falling off and all.
    ______________
    david, that´s telling it like it is! I found a couple of bolts in my back pocket the other day! :)
    GO LAKERS!

  15. I see Phx is going to purposely tank tonight’s game against Utah to try and force us into the lottery (they have our pick). Dragic out for ‘rest’…rest for what?

  16. Rusty Shackleford March 27, 2013 at 5:36 pm

    They are really hurting themselves with turnovers tonight. Nice dunk Kobe.

    Just imagine if Denver could get their hands on Nikola Petavich without having to give up much. Him and Faried would be an absolute nightmare for any team on the glass. They are what the Lakers do not have – players that run to the ball.

  17. Kobe with a highlight slam dunk.

  18. good to see `Tawn feeling his stroke tonight

  19. So, Dwight wants more post touches yet he can’t manage a possession without fumbling the ball or travelling with it. Oh, and there’s that whole being stripped because he can’t make a move without bringing the ball below his midsection. I hope he solicits the help of Kareem for some post work.

  20. These turnovers are amateurish.

  21. You’re a guard on the Lakers and you don’t know that Howard prefers a lob?

    I am so sick of Meeks pull up jump bricks. So what if he can hit 2 or 3 once every 15 games, he is just too streaky. He doesn’t even try to go inside out.

  22. Of course. As soon as I submitted my last post- Howard with a ridiculous chase-down block and then a nice finish at the offensive end + a free throw. :/

  23. As Chearn has mentioned, hope you´re feeling better Robert!

  24. Howard is active on defense and looking good.

  25. These turnovers are nauseating.

    At least Dwight’s D is looking strong tonight.

  26. 15 turn overs in the 1st half. This is one of the worst coached, poorest fundamental teams in Laker History. To think that some want to play the best coached teams SA is quite funny.

    Nash is suppose to be the solution. Hardly he is the worst. Another 5 in the first half. Nice. Hope they clean this junk up.

  27. TO’s are killing us. We’re fortunate to be up by 4 pts. Dwight, although he has 3 fouls, is dominating defensively. Kobe isn’t forcing anything. Pau, tho’ effective, has absolutely no elevation. Will be interested to see how much Dwight is involved in the 2nd half. Particularly, in the 4th (If he can avoid foul trouble).

  28. Not to bash on MWP but the offense looks a little better without him taking twice as many shots than Dwight i bet he would have 10 fga by now if he played, miss his defense though but his shot selection is atrocious most of the time.If it wasnt for the turnover albatross this team have around his neck all season long this game would be wide open.15 freaking turnovers at the half YIKES!!!

  29. I have a trivia question, does anyone remember when we have both Dwight and Pau having good games at the same time?

  30. @Fern: never

  31. guys: it’s only halftime but you gotta like the effort. can’t help but channel surf with the bulls playing that winning streak team from south miami. with a sigh of relief; diehard laker fans will inhale with a win tonite and exhale from a win tonite by the bulls of the windy city. i like streaks, the winning kind when and where it belongs, with the lakers.

    without getting too far out ahead of myself, with a win tomorrow (back to back no less); lakers can find themselves not breaking a streak of their: never had won a back to back in their entire history here in los angeles?

    now back to station identification and PurpleBlood, keep the faith.

    Go Lakers

  32. Is Minnesota this bad? Seems like with that many turnovers we hold be down 12, not up 12.

  33. Ty Joe lol its unbeliavable , is a safe assumption this is what we all envisioned before this season started.If they do this every night the Lakers will be as good as advertised. THAT is the real strenght of this team.

  34. Remember that elbow to Dwight’s chops that ended up being called a foul on Dwight in the GSW game? NBA assessed it a flagrant-1 retroactively, a potential 6 point swing if called properly in game.

    NBA where awful refereeing happens.

  35. I bet Pau really loves Rubio, he guarded him like it was his little brother, smh.

  36. Neil i believe the 1st meeting of the season

  37. Okay, Meeks that was a very very nice lob to Kobe on the break. Just wonder why the Lakers don’t get more lobs on the break. I didn’t think anyone knew how to throw a lob on the break or finish one.

    That out of bounds play looked eerily similar to the throw away against OKC by Kobe.

    The Lakers turnovers are old men turnovers, they assume that the young players aren’t hungry to get possession of the basketball.

    Hopefully, Kobe will not try to prove that Kirilenko can’t guard him.

    Stop with the cute passes. Can you imagine that behind the back pass by Kobe getting through against OKC or Miami.

    Play some defense NOW.

  38. Lakers up by 11 but this team behavior during the season, make me feel like we are losing by 5.

  39. Lakers true to character blowing another double digit lead.

  40. Its a shame about this wolves team, if that team ever get healthy they are a playoff team.

  41. Oh hello Pau, where have you been?

  42. 41pt. Quarter! wow

  43. Lets hope this dont turns into another 4th quarter of doom, always letting teams hang around.

  44. Nash defense is undefenseable.

  45. Sweet pass SB .. Sweet pass.

  46. so steve nash is deferring to steve blake on offense too…not just kobe bryant.

  47. Albeit against the Wolves but it’s amazing what ball movement in the 4th quarter can do.

  48. SB has fouled out? With 5 1/2 mins left in the game? Was the coaching staff even keeping track of his fouls?

  49. How many wide open misses for Meeks in one lifetime.

  50. hack a dwight is on

  51. Nice coaching Mike Daaaaaaaa.

  52. Dumbest coach in the NBA. Let them back in the game by not pulling Dwight.

  53. Probably should have taken Dwight out for a minute. Hack a Dwight got the Timberwolves back into this game.

  54. When hack-a-Dwight goes wrong…..and Nash misses.

  55. Hack-a-Dwight is nothing compared to our terrible guard play over the last couple possessions.

    Kobe finally hits one, on a bad ISO possession where everyone stood around. GET IN THE POST!!!!

  56. Kobe with a huge basket to give the Lakers some breathing room. Nothing is easy for this team.

  57. KB´s clutch pull up is an example of why he´s less than 40pts. away from Wilt!
    [info supplied by Kobe Alert´s Robert :)

  58. We will take wins anyway we can get them, but to say this game is not exactly filling me with great hope even if we hold on would be a serious understatement.

  59. 23 second chance points given up tonight by the Lakers.

  60. Gasol is killing the Lakers on defense.

  61. The Lakers scored 69 points on the second half so far :), but allowed 71 :(. Unbeliavable atrocious defense if it wasnt for Dwight the Wolves would had scored 130 easy.

  62. whew!

  63. Kareem Adbul Jabar, that was as awful a win as I have seen us get in a while.

    What a **** show.

  64. Almost choked another one, nothing to change my view that this team is just clueless on defense and its nothing more than 1st round fooder. If we play like this against the Bucks we are going to lose.

  65. Lakers escape with a win.

  66. Even with a win, I don’t enjoy watching this team.

  67. Btw as We watched the Lakers struggle to beat the lousy Wolves, I am watching the Bulls give the best team in basketball all they can handle with their 2 best players out. Who says coaching doesn’t matter, Thibs is the man.

  68. Bulls win, way to go Chi town
    see y´all tomorrow

  69. I’m happier for Chicago’s win than ours, but I’ll take our win as well.

  70. Ty chicago….now i dont have to listen to my friends who are miami heat fans talk about beating the lakers record.

  71. darius: it happened again. dog scratches door. we go for a walk. we come home. this time lakers of old and lakers of new win.

    let’s get on with it and on to milwaukee with season’s first back to back wins.

    Go Lakers

  72. I’m just glad the Lakers 33 win streak is safe again!

  73. 71 second half points for Wolves wasn’t good, but the 25 pts 16 reb 5 stl 5 blk line from Dwight was tremendous aside from his total choke job from the line. This team always seems to click better without a star. Not enough shots to go around and they need to keep Dwight engaged so they can get this kind of output from him. He usually gets it when someone is out. Still have a tough April ahead. 38 point 4th quarters to playoff teams usually means you lost.

  74. @Joe

    Right Man, coach can make a difference. Great job by the Bulls, if only they were healthy they can contend against the Heat.

    Regarding Dwight FT’s. Did you know that he is a poor shooter?! If we play 48 minutes of hard ball, we really dont need Dwight to shoot those FTs.

  75. chearn- “The Lakers turnovers are old men turnovers, they assume that the young players aren’t hungry to get possession of the basketball.”
    “Hopefully, Kobe will not try to prove that Kirilenko can’t guard him.”
    drreyeye- “Even with a win, I don’t enjoy watching this team.”

    lol had me rolling

  76. My comment on this season; when does NFL training camp start?