I’m still recovering from my Thanksgiving dinner, so I’m going to keep this short and sweet. The Lakers are back in action tonight after losing to the Grizzlies on Wednesday, looking to get back in the win column against a team that just might be as bad as they are. The Timberwolves come into this game with the same amount of wins as the Lakers (3), but with two less losses (10). They also come in minus Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, both out with injury. This has put the Lakers in the “favorite” position for the first time all season with the Wolves visiting Staples tonight.
In all honesty, if the Lakers cannot find a way to win this game, they might truly be the second worst team in the league behind the 76ers. Kobe can talk all he wants about the team being better than their record, but as Bill Parcells often said, you are what your record says you are. And if that includes losses to other similarly bad teams when playing at home, you might actually be worse than your record says you are. If the Lakers want to actually, you know, start to turn some things around tonight would be a prime opportunity to do so.
To get it done, the Lakers must find a way to play fast but not allow themselves to get sloppy where the athletes on the Wolves have a chance to get out in the open floor and get easy baskets. The Wolves already like to play fast (6th fastest pace in the league), but if they are allowed to get out in the open floor via turnovers and off long rebounds, Andrew Wiggins, Thad Young, Gorgui Dieng, Anthony Bennett, and Mo Williams can get the types of easy baskets that can boost what is, from an efficiency standpoint, a poor attack. In other words, Kobe and Jeremy Lin need to cut out the unnecessary risks via forced pocket passes and leaving their feet without a plan and play a more controlled game.
Defensively, the Lakers’ focus needs to be on slowing Mo Williams at the point of attack and collapsing the paint on Wiggins when he attacks the rim and tries to post up. Williams has long been a player who seems to play his best ball against the Lakers, so it should not be a surprise if he opens up looking to be aggressive and trying to get his own. As for Wiggins, with Rubio, Martin, and Pekovic all out recently the #1 overall pick has been looking for his own shot more and more and flashing some of the skill that had scouts drooling over him. The athleticism is a given, but as he starts to channel that into productive basketball plays defenses will need to account for him. The Lakers would be wise to not allow him the types of easy looks that get any player going.
All in all, this is a game the Lakers really should not lose. The Wolves are just as (if not more) banged up as the Lakers and are just off a day of travel to begin a road trip. They are not particularly good on either end of the ball and, while they do have some nice pieces, simply aren’t a very good team right now. Of course, the same is true about the Lakers, but they are the team at home and not coming off any travel and only playing a couple of games over the last week. It really is time to get it done.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TWC Sportsnet. Also listen on ESPN Radio 710AM.