Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Timbewolves

Darius Soriano —  November 10, 2013

The Lakers return home tonight after a road trip that pretty much exemplifies the team they’ve been this year. After a dreadful loss to the Mavs, the Lakers surprised with a great win over the Rockets and then played a hard fought game that went against them late against the Pelicans. Sitting at 3-4 on the year, this is who the Lakers are. When their role players hit shots and the entire roster plays with the requisite energy, they can beat nearly anyone. When those things are the opposite, the Lakers are likely to lose ugly. On most other nights, the Lakers have enough scrap and talent to hang tight against most other middle of the pack teams, but those games are likely to be toss ups that come down to execution and mental toughness at the end.

So far this year, the Lakers haven’t shown they are precise enough down the stretch and that likely cost them games against the Spurs and the Pellies. Maybe that’s also a talent issue. Maybe it’s one of mental and physical toughness. Or maybe it’s just reflective of a team that’s still learning each other while missing Kobe Bryant, who also happens to be their leader and best player. That last point is one that we really can’t forget about and need to come back to whenever evaluating this team. The team we see now isn’t the one we’ll see when Kobe returns. He’ll put his stamp on this team and that will have its affect on a group that, while showing an ability to hit shots and a perseverance and want that wasn’t always present last year, is still looking for an identity that can carry them from night to night.

The good news is, the fight the team shows on most nights is a nice pillar to hang their hat on from game to game. That spirit will keep them in most contests and it will, when combined with other positive elements showing up, allow them to win. Against the ‘Wolves tonight, all of the above will be needed to beat a team that looks very much improved from the injury depleted team many had high hopes for last year.

Key to the improvement is that Kevin Love is not only healthy this year, but looks to have picked up right where he left off from the season before last. The former UCLA product is putting up monster numbers, averaging 27 points, nearly 15 rebounds, and 5 assists a night. Add to Love the 23 points that free agent add Kevin Martin is bringing each night and the Wolves have, at least initially in this young season, one of the best one-two punches in the league.

Minnesota is more than just these two guys, though. Ricky Rubio is also healthy and he’s still one of the game’s best set up man and a pest defensively. Nikola Pekovic also returns and while his scoring numbers are down (which is to be expected with Love and Martin combining for 50 a night), he’s still a presence on the glass and a big, strong body in the paint on both ends. They’re joined by quality depth in the form of Corey Brewer, JJ Barea, Derrick Williams, Dante Cunningham, and Alexey Shved. That’s a rotation that can go 9 deep with positional versatility that allows head coach Rick Adelman to mix and match his lineups to dictate what the opponent does or match up should the other team force his hand.

All of this spells some trouble for the Lakers as they face a team with specific match ups that have been problematic this year. If there are two positions the Lakers haven’t been able to handle well this season it’s been skilled power forwards and shooting guards with size who can really score. The Warriors’ game immediately comes to mind, but also the Pelicans’ game where Anthony Davis had his way on both ends. With Love and Martin, the question isn’t necessarily how to slow them down — there are game plans that can be put in place to limit one or both — but whether the Lakers even have the personnel to do so.

Love has evolved into the premier stretch big man in the league. He can not only hit the three ball, but has the ability to put the ball on the floor against a close out against bigger players or post up and dominate the offensive glass against smaller ones. The Lakers don’t have a player with the combination of size, quickness, and rebounding prowess to limit Love and that can lead to Love having his way in this game. As for Martin, his style of running off screens and cutting actively against aggressive defenders is one that Steve Blake is used to defending, but with his size and craftiness off the dribble, Blake will still have his problems containing Martin in all that he does.

What the Lakers need, then, is to be as sharp as they can be in their half court defense and understand where to be in help situations at all times. Love and Martin have the ability to play 25 feet away from the rim and still be effective and it’s in combatting that spacing where the Lakers need to be sharp. Can Gasol, Kaman, Hill, and Wes Johnson rotate from the paint to the perimeter and then back to the paint to contest shots and rebound? Can the wings shade their man and limit penetration while making the correct back side rotation to either contest shots on the wing or body up a big man crashing the offensive glass? And, most importantly, can these groups of players work in unison to accomplish these tasks on any given play and not suffer miscommunications that can lead to wide open shots or easy put-backs? If they can, the Lakers will be in this game throughout. If they can’t, this could get out of hand early.

On the other end of the ball, it’s really as simple as the Lakers needing to make the jumpers their offense generates. Through 7 games, if one thing is clear it’s that the Lakers can find ways to create jumpers in the half court. Whether that’s through their HORNS actions, P&R’s, or simple drive and kicks, the team has enough balance between ball handlers and big men who know how to make the right play to find open shooters around the wing. The key, of course, is for the wings to actually hit those shots. When Blake, Nash, Johnson, Meeks, and Young hit from behind the arc the offense hums. When they don’t, it stalls. The occasional mid-range jumper or drive to the rim can help stop the bleeding or extend a run, but it’s the long ball that will sustain the Lakers’ offense.

For all the other games the Lakers have played this season, this one might be the most realistic “test” they’ve had. Though the Wolves are 4-2 through 6 games, they’re basically one of the teams that will be competing for a spot 6-8 come playoff time. This is the exact place the Lakers would like to be come year’s end. In other words, if the Lakers see themselves as a playoff team, the Wolves are the exact type of team they’ll be competing against to earn that seed. Considering this is a home game, the Lakers need to put out a good effort and see where they compare, even if it is early in the season and they don’t have Kobe.

Where you can watch: 6:30pm start on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.

Darius Soriano

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45 responses to Preview and Chat: Lakers vs. Timbewolves

  1. I would trade the Lakers roster straight Up for Minnesota right now including coaches!!!

  2. We´re an up & down team,
    tonight we should be on the `up´ side of things seeing as that 4th Q. against the `Pellies´ (nice one Darius, hadn´t heard it) was, like Elvis´ last hit (#1, Country charts), `way on dowwwwn´ -
    GO DEFENSE!! please

  3. gene: That is funny. We would most likely have to throw in some cash and draft picks to make that work though.
    Rebounds: This stat has been a perfect indicator for the Lakers so far this year. We win rebounds we win the game, we don’t – we lose.
    22 straight against the Wolves so why isn’t everybody more confident?

  4. Need Hill or Williams to guard Love. No way Pau who won’t guard 3-pointer.

    Concerned about this game.

  5. Saw the Wolves against Mavericks in person (in MN right now) and they look like a legit team that could give anyone problems; and really would not be surprised if they finally beat that streak.

    Still, they also seem to be in the process of settling everyone in, so we should have a shot.

  6. Lakers need a Pau triple double game tonight. I think he delivers, hopefully it’ll be enough.

  7. Look for Pau to have a good game playing against pal Rubio. Kevin Love is always auditioning in Los Angeles, so he’ll be in beast mode.

    I’d like to see what Farmar can do against this team. I also wonder which player is going to defend Martin.

    I never figured out why the defense collapses to defend the paint, when they don’t have the foot speed to recover back to the perimeter. When the 3pt shot was first instituted it made sense to pack the paint as most players weren’t capable of hitting that shot: The reverse is true today.

    No defense, no rebounds….no wins! It’s that simple. In order for the Lakers to win, every night that they step on the floor they must play balls to the walls defense. Moreover, they must play with energy. The uniform does not win the game the players do, so the sooner the players learn this lesson the better.

    The coach has to make substitutions prior to a player depleting all of his energy. Otherwise, the player will start to conserve energy and miss plays, because he’s required to stay on the floor. Coach should move the players in and out the minute he’s sees their energy on offense and defense start to wain. That’s the only way the players will play all out on both ends of the floor.

    Which Lakers team will show up?

  8. Love and Martin already running riot.

  9. Painfully watching Nash trying to play and zero chance Blake on Martin. Can you be this clueless Mike?.

  10. I understand there isn’t a good defensive matchup for Love (Kaman and Gasol are too slow, Williams and Johnson are too small), but there has to be a better option than Blake on Martin, right?

    Right?

  11. Just terrible coaching . No way Kamen can guard Love and no way Blake can guard Young. And no way Nash can play anymore.

    This is another blow put.

  12. My gosh is the worst starter in the MBA then Nash. Please retire.

  13. Do we have any other options to guard Love?No, either too small or too slow, this is the roster that we have and we are getting our butts handed to us, get used to it, its going to be a recurring theme this season. Like i said that 3-4 record was a mirage, now the pain starts.

  14. Without Kobe, this team is going nowhere. The Lakers right now are closer to the bottom of the league than being a playoff contender.

  15. The two players, Love and Martin, Darius spotlighted doing lots of damage. Just wish the Cowboys were doing better.

  16. This team is so abysmal defensively it defies logic.

  17. Were always complaining about our starting PG’s, no matter who they are, just saying…

  18. That was as embarrassing a quarter of basketball as I have ever watched in my 25+ years of watching NBA ball…it literally looked like the Globetrotters vs. the Generals.

  19. Without the scowl there’s no emotion on the court. Besides some obvious skillsets that’s what the team’s lacking.

  20. LoL. The game is not over yet. Blake is not tall enough to play SG. LOL, Mike D’antoni is stubborn.
    I can only laugh at this team. Why not play pau and hill togeher?!?

  21. Most points (47) given up in a quarter ever by the Lakers. WELP

  22. Exceptional quarter by the T’wolves. They were hot like fire. 76% from the field?? You’ve gotta be kidding. The Lakers played a normal quarter, the Wolves had a franchise record quarter.

  23. Please play Ryan Kelly, I’d like to see if he can compete. You find out more about a player when your team is being blown out than when they are ahead. Please stop playing Williams he is not an NBA player.

  24. Truth

    This team is 2 clanked free throws and a lucky 3 pointer from the worst record in the NBA.

    Sad

  25. I think Lakers should keep meeks. He’s finishing much better in transition and he’s actually doing what the Lakers paid him to do, which is knocking down 3s.

    If Lakers are going to trade anybody, its got to be steve nash or steve blake. Lakers have the worst starting backcourt in the nba.

  26. Damn, I miss Kobe. Jodie Meeks is one of the only players playing hard for the Lakers.

  27. I can just see teams lining up to take Nash and Blake off the Lakers’ hands…

  28. Clearly this team is not playing for this coach. Maybe it’s those snide comments he makes after each loss.

  29. The Lakers have missed a bunch of layups tonight. They have got to show some pride and anger on defense. This is ridiculous.

  30. Kaman has been beyond terrible tonight…he has given the ball away a lot…and almost given it away that many more times. He should try looking before throwing an inbound pass for instance.

  31. Glad to see some effort in the 2nd quarter. Listen, we fans know the Lakers are overmatched just about every night. All I can ask for is effort!

  32. MDA is a stupid coach. We went on a run with the bench and he went back to the starting lineup. Anyone with a brain can see that Nash and Pau are in serious decline; so why is this man playing them together? Steve Blake looks back because he plays off the ball with Nash. Blake should be starting at PG and anyone with a pulse can play at the 2.

  33. Watch the adjustment this guy makes this half! How about NONE. Blake on Martin and Chris on Love and of course the 27% shooting Nash still starts.

    No guts.

  34. Nice adjustments coach. Pau is again worthless. Anybody who thinks Kobe can save this garbage and clueless coach is dreaming.

  35. Would the Lakers becoming sellers (Meeks, Kaman, Hill and Blake) this season drive Kobe to join another team or will he honor his “Lakers for life” statement no matter what?

  36. We know the team sucks, can the whinning stop? We dont have anyone in the roster to guard Love and Martin or the main 2 stars on any team in the league,what the hell you people want? This team success depended on Pau and Nash playing not like they were on their prime but steady enough to provide stability and leadership, that has not happen and what we get is 13 role players and 2 players that are done. We all knew this team was going to be bad defensively. So why people act surprised?

  37. Nash experiencing back pain going to see a doctor tomorrow per report on TWC, hope it is not serious.

  38. I don’t know who is having a rougher go this year, Nash or Pau – both appear to have fallen off massive decline mountain.

  39. If Lakers give up 123 points today they will be last in the entire NBA in points against. Not sure Kobe will help that.

    Could be worst in Laker history. Nice hire Jimbo.

  40. XMan has missed a lot of stuff around the rim tonight….but then so has the rest of the Lakers…only positive I can draw from this is that the team played hard after going down 24.

  41. Why is Gasol still out there??

  42. Now at 107 points per game the Lakers lead the NBA in point scored. Agonist them that is.

    Congratulations!

  43. Yes the Wolves shot the lights out. But…
    I think we’re starting to see why so many of these guys were available (Williams, Johnson, Henry, et al). They’re close, but not superior talent by NBA standards.

    MDA offense is built around 3 point shooters. Ours aren’t very good.

    Nash, good as he’s been in past should retire. It’s time.

    Nick Young falls back on every shot. Drives me crazy.

    What to do with Pau? Trade him while his value remains somewhat high? How high will it be in January?

    Starting to envy Philly, Cleveland, and (yes) Phoenix. They know who they are, and they will get better. This is a wasted year. Bad coach, still have no clue what they want to be.

  44. Lakerdom!

    This is bad! This is not us!
    Clearly, the late great Jerry Buss made a mistake in letting Jim Buss take over. Clearly, he has no clue as to what needs to be done. Trading aways picks for Nash, wow! I said it was bad then it is even worse now. A roster full of D-Leaguers, I have never seen this before and I have been watching the Lakers since Jerry West played. Yes, Jeannie Buss should be running this team because clearly she gets it! I doubt she would have traded for Nash or even entertained the thought. Also, Phil would have been coaching with personnel input and DH12 would still be here!

    However, as bad as it is it would be worse if you let Kobe come back and try to make the playoffs. We need youth! Young players who can play and will develop into solid NBA players.
    The Lakers need young perimeter players that can DEFEND and score. This is a good solid draft class coming up and we need a good pick. But if you make the playoffs or even hover around like 9th or 10th then there is no sense in that. Why, even? Hell the Spurs were a 50-win team but held Robinson out to have a chance to draft Duncan. Why, because it was the smart move for the organization.

    Point is we will see where the Lakers organization is going here real soon. Either sit Kobe down and improve the draft position. Or let KB24 ride roughshot over the franchise for the next few years while he chases the scoring record and the Lakers become what the Clippers used to be. My guess is Jim Buss does not have what it takes to put Kobe in check and make a decision for the sake of the franchise. He is making emotional decisions…not sound business decisions.

  45. Well. Where does one begin?

    I’m old-fashioned. So I think the starting point is defense. Yes. The Timberworlves were shooting the lights out. But do you think this team would score 47 pts. in one quarter against San Antonio or Chicago? Of course not.

    Defense is NOT about talent. All the experts concede that. It’s about energy and desire. And the Lakers’ energy and desire seems to go AWOL far too often.

    Also, this is the 3rd blow-out loss in 8 games. That’s completely unacceptable. I’ll put that at the feet of the coaches. Minnesota was ready to play. The Lakers were not.

    Finally, Leadership. The Lakers (as I’ve said before) have none. Gasol doesn’t want to be a leader. Nash, sadly, is disintegrating into ashes before our very eyes. And Kobe watches from the sideline.

    If this continues, this will be a very long season.