How do I even start this preview? I don’t even know what to talk about.
The Lakers lose Steve Nash. Then Jordan Farmar. Then Steve Blake. And then they lose Kobe Bryant again. Basically, the Lakers lost all their playmakers from the backcourt. They did go ahead and sign Kendall Marshall out of the D-League but I don’t expect any Jeremy Lin miracles out of this one. I will pledge allegiance to all the Kardashians if Marshall helps the Lakers go 3-0 by scoring 25 points per game, and leads the Lakers to an upset against the Heat on Christmas.
Anyway, what of the remaining Lakers? Well, it’s life without Kobe once again. They were 10-9 before Kobe came back but then they also had someone playing point guard. With Marshall the only true point guard on the roster (and you don’t expect him to play 30 minutes a game), they’re going to have to rely on energy and ball movement from every player that is playing on the court. We probably want something reminiscent of the group that came back against Portland on the beginning of the month.
But we do remember these Minnesota Timberwolves, right? They have arguably the best power forward in the game in Kevin Love. They have an excellent starting shooting guard in Kevin Martin. They have a passing wiz kid in Ricky Rubio. And they have the burly, immovable, and frightening Nikola Pekovic. We also can’t forget Corey Brewer, who is a pest defensively and a master at opportunistic leakouts.
Oh, yeah. These are the Wolves that dropped 47 points in the first against the Lakers in their first meeting. And these guys can get pretty explosive as they showed in their win against Portland (another explosive offensive squad) on Wednesday night.
So it goes without saying that the Lakers need to get off to a good start. Kevin Love will always be a pain to guard; Darius mentioned in his previous preview that there is nobody on the Lakers that can match Love’s deadly combo of size, quickness, and rebounding ability. If there’s anything the Lakers hope for, it’s that they hope Love has a bad night from three and tries to shoot his way out of it as he is sometimes prone to do. Rubio can be predictable; he’s always looking to pass but which of the Lakers can keep up with him? You also hope that someone can keep up with Martin, who takes advantage of defenders overplaying him. And Pekovic is just a monster; he is not light on his feet so Jordan Hill and Pau Gasol will have to outquick him.
I honestly have no idea what to expect with this offense because a big part of it (um, Kobe… and a point guard) is gone. Nick Young will continue to be his Swaggy P self; he’s averaging 16.8 points in his last five games. Pau Gasol has played well in the last two games, shooting 16 out of 21 (.762) and averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 boards. Maybe we’ll see him take over a bit more on setting up players from the post. As for the ballhandling duties, Xavier Henry will likely start in that position with Nick Young and Meeks sharing the position. And we’ll likely see Marshall in that back-up role.
Basically, the Lakers should get off to a good start, communicate well on defense (the Wolves are going to be everywhere), and do their best to keep the Wolves off the boards. All easier said than done. I probably should’ve just put that as the preview and call it a day.
But if anything, let’s weather the storm for a second time until Kobe comes back around February.
Just don’t let the Wolves score 47 points in the first quarter, for starters.