On the second night of a back-to-back, the Lakers take on Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves, after a tough loss in Milwaukee against the Bucks last night. Both of these teams are out of the playoff race at this point but there is still a lot to play for. The Lakers, as Jordan Hill pointed out, continue to play for pride, while the Timberwolves are tying to finish above .500 for the first time since 2005. There is sure to be talk about T-Wolves star Kevin Love and his future in Minnesota as he has been linked to the Lakers in a number of reports. The T-Wolves come in with a 35-35 record, but have lost three of their last four games. The Lakers come in with a 24-47 record, and have won two of their last three.
Kevin Love is one of the premier players in the NBA and arguably the best power forward in the league. His rebounding is out of this world and he is capable of putting up video game numbers on any night. With Nikola Pekovic out, rookie Gorgui Dieng has stepped in at center and provided the team with a huge spark. Dieng has averaged nine points, and 10 rebounds in the last nine games, including a 22 point, 21 rebound performance against the Houston Rockets.
Corey Brewer rounds out the frontcourt as one of the fastest players in the NBA. He is an excellent defender, and leaks out for easy fastbreak buckets every chance he gets. Jordan Hill has been producing some excellent performances as of late, and Chris Kaman has been solid in place of Pau Gasol. Kaman will have to use his strength to overpower Dieng and Hill will have to put a body on Love at all times. Wesley Johnson will also have to be aware of where Brewer is on the court. He has the speed and athleticism to keep up with Brewer, but can not allow Brewer to get behind him.
The T-Wolves boast a very competent backcourt of Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin, who complement each other perfectly. Rubio is an excellent ballhandler who gets everyone the ball in the best possible positions on the floor. His court vision is second to none, but his shooting has yet to improve, which has been his downfall. Martin can flat out score the ball. He is an excellent shooter who capitalizes on the looks that Rubio and Kevin Love afford him. But he can also get his own shot against tight defense.
Jodie Meeks is going to have to stay focused at all times with Martin on the floor as he can get hot in a flash. And once he gets going, the rest of the team feeds off it. Kendall Marshall on the other hand, has to do everything he can to turn Rubio into a scorer and not a facilitator. If Marshall can keep Rubio out of the paint and on the outside, it hurts the entire team as only Love and Martin are really capable of creating their own shot.
Keys To A Lakers Victory
Transition Defense: The T-Wolves rank in the top 10 in fast break points. Between Kevin Love’s rebounding and outlet passing, Brewer’s speed and ability to get out in the open court, and and Rubio’s passing, the T-Wolves can open the game up in the blink of an eye. The Lakers have to do everything in their power to keep them confined to the half court. The Lakers have felt what it’s like to to have a game against the T-Wolves spiral out of control because of their inability to keep up. In order to accomplish this, the Lakers have to make their shots, minimize long rebounds, and always have at least one person back on every shot. Controlling the fast break will be key to giving the Lakers a chance.
Three-Point Shooting: The one area where the Lakers have a decided advantage is in their three-point shooting. Outside of Love and Martin, the rest of the T-Wolves are below average at best from deep. It is no secret that the Lakers boast a number of shooters who can get hot very quickly. They will need to win the three-point battle in order to come out on top. With the T-Wolves having an advantage in the frontcourt, the Lakers guards and wings have to have a great night shooting. The Lakers have to use the great equalizer to their advantage.
Turnovers: The T-Wolves own the best turnover differential in the NBA. They force the second most turnovers and are in the top five in taking care of the ball on offense. The Lakers, with only one healthy point guard, and a severe lack of ballhandlers, have struggled to take care of the ball. With a team looking to get out on the break every chance they get, limiting turnovers will be key for a Lakers victory. Rubio and Brewer, especially, have quick hands and will pick ballhandlers clean if they are sloppy with the ball. The Lakers must find a way to hold on to the ball, and force some turnovers on the defensive end against a team that rarely gives it up.
Heading into tonight’s game, the Lakers are 11.5-point underdogs according to Sportsbook.
Los Angeles Lakers (24-47) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (35-35)
5:00 PM PST, March 28, 2014
Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: ESPN Radio 710 ESPNLA
Timberwolves Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Kevin Martin
SF: Corey Brewer
PF: Kevin Love
C: Gorgui Dieng
Key Reserves: PG JJ Barea, SF Chase Budinger, PF Dante Cunningham
Lakers Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Kendall Marshall
SG: Jodie Meeks
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Jordan Hill
C: Chris Kaman
Lakers’ Kobe Bryant Meets With Jim Buss, ‘Goal Is To Win And Win Now’