Los Angeles Lakers (23-16) at Minnesota Timberwolves (21-19)
5:00 PM PST, March 9, 2012
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Radio: 710 AM (English), 1330 AM (Spanish)
Timberwolves Projected Starting Line-Up:
PG: Ricky Rubio
SG: Luke Ridnour
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Kevin Love
C: Darko Milicic
Key Reserves: C Nikola Pekovic, F Derrick Williams, G J.J. Barea
Suddenly when the Lakers began to play at a high-level they are reminded quickly of their struggles on the road. Tonight the club visits with Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves in their final game of this three-game road trip. The Lakers defeated the Timberwolves at Staples Center on February 29th by a score of 104-85. The gap was likely due to the absence of Kevin Love, who sat out that game with a case of the flu. The team would win the three games on the homestand including a big victory over the Miami Heat. The string of wins was thought to give the club momentum going into a road trip that included stops at lowly Detroit and Washington. Dismal play would lead to losses in both contests. Bear in mind that combined, the Pistons and Wizards have 22 wins, one fewer than the Lakers.
For the Timberwolves it has been quite the opposite, they have won three-of-four since suffering defeat at Staples Center. Tonight they host a hungry Lakers team that not only could benefit from a victory in terms of the standings, but could also use a victory to gain some momentum with the Boston Celtics coming to town on Sunday.
Frontcourt: Without Kevin Love the Timberwolves highly resembled the team many thought was headed for the NBA Draft Lottery. But in his return he reminded the NBA just why he is deserving of MVP consideration. Love has scored 133 points as Minnesota has gone 3-1 with him back in the lineup, an average of 33.2 points per game. Add 53 rebounds (13.2 per game) to the impressive scoring total and suddenly any team gets pieced back together. Wesley Johnson was kept in check against the Lakers, but went off against the Blazers on Wednesday, scoring 19 points on 3-of-4 shooting from distance. Minnesota will look to him from the outside in hopes of sparking some sort of offense if the Timberwolves come out flat again. The Timberwolves are expecting to have center Nikola Pekovic back for tonight’s contest, but still list him as questionable. His replacement is Darko Milicic, who tends to show some flashes of life such as Monday’s 13 point outing while shooting 6-of-7. Still, Darko is just a body to play alongside Kevin Love, who grabs every rebound.
Backcourt: The shooting woes continue for Ricky Rubio. Still the Timberwolves find ways to win without his production. He shot 1-of-8 against the Lakers, but dished nine assists. He is a great player and will get his act together. When he does: Watch out! The Wolves are at their worst when fellow guard Luke Ridnour is shut down. He shot only 3-of-11 against the Lakers. Since that game, he has scored in double-digits in every contest. Most recently he added a 22-point effort against Portland. He is capable of going off from distance, but Laker fans would not have guessed that given his recent play.
- The Lakers lead the overall series against the Timberwolves by a margin of 65-21. The Lakers have won 17 straight games including their last eight in Minnesota.
- Kobe Bryant needs just 12 points to reach 29,000 for his career.
- Timberwolves forward Kevin Love has 34 double-doubles in 37 games this season.
Keys to a Laker Victory:
– Make the Guards Shoot
The Lakers were phenomenal in stopping the Timberwolves guards from making any sort of comeback. Hit the repeat button and continue to stick to that game plan.
– Frustrate Kevin Love
This time around Kevin Love will indeed play and will make all the difference in the world. Frustration does not suit him well. He is a smart player with multiple ways of getting himself out of spots. He will find them and excel. It will be up to the Lakers bigs to prevent that.
– End your Road Woes
What better way to get over those two detrimental losses than to follow up with a huge victory over a hungry team. The Lakers clearly struggle on the road, but showed some life in Dallas not too long ago. Build that momentum for Boston and the rivalry game on Sunday.