After a three game road trip that was highlighted by Steve Blake’s game-winner over Dwight Howard, the Los Angeles Lakers return home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After a disappointing season marred by injuries, the Timberwolves revamped their roster over the summer and now have playoff aspirations. With the additions of Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer, Minnesota has gotten off to a strong start — winning four of their six games. Without Kobe Bryant, the Lakers will look to win their 24th consecutive game against these Timberwolves. Let’s jump right into the analysis of tonight’s game.
Frontcourt: Appearing in only 18 games last season due to various injuries, Kevin Love has returned with a vengeance and is an early MVP candidate. So far this season, the UCLA product has averaged 27.2 points, 14.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists. While the Lakers will need to keep the leading rebounder in the league off the boards, they will need to make sure that Nikola Pekovic does not have a breakout game. While he has struggled from the field so far, Pekovic is a force in the paint who is averaging 11.7 points and 9.0 rebounds.
Backcourt: The small backcourt has struggled against the Lakers in past seasons, but the Timberwolves added some length this off-season with the additions of Kevin Martin and Corey Brewer. Both have played exceptionally well and have helped Minnesota get off to a good start. Martin has provided the Timberwolves with a legit second option and is averaging 23.3 points while shooting nearly 57 percent from beyond the arc. Brewer, who seems to always have his best games against the Lakers, is averaging 13.8 points and 1.7 steals per game.
Key to Lakers’ Victory:
Pau Gasol: After a solid start to the season, Pau Gasol struggled during the Lakers’ road trip. In three games, Gasol averaged 7.0 points and 10.3 rebounds while shooting 26 percent from the field. While he is a top-10 rebounder in the league, Gasol has yet to find any consistency on the offensive end and looked extremely old against Pelicans’ Anthony Davis on Friday night. It seems like Gasol is still trying to get himself into game shape, but the Lakers need him to produce in Kobe Bryant’s absence.
Offensive Rebounding: On the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers surprisingly played with good energy on the defensive end. While the Lakers only gave up 11 offensive boards, it came at inopportune times as the Pelicans were able to stretch their lead back to 7-8 points. The Lakers are currently third in rebounding (45.7), but they need to limit the Timberwolves to one shot.
Transition Defense: Against the Pelicans, Anthony Davis had six blocks and most led to easy transition opportunities. The Pelicans ended the night with 22 fast break points and got to the basket when they wanted to. With the Timberwolves putting up the fifth most points in the league (105.0), the Lakers need to have enough bodies running back to negate those easy opportunities.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are three-point underdogs via Sportsbook.
Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) at Los Angeles Lakers (3-4)
6:30 PM PST, November 10, 2013
STAPLES Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SN
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Timberwolves Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Kevin Love
C: Nikola Pekovic
Key Reserves: PG: JJ Barea, PF: Derrick Williams, PF: Dante Cunningham