On behalf of everyone here at Lakers Nation, we hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, but now it’s back to Lakers Basketball. The purple and gold were handed another tough loss against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday, losing 99-93. Next up is the 3-10 Minnesota Timberwolves — a team that, much like the Lakers, has suffered from a serious case of injury woes. In their last game, Minnesota was defeated 103-86 at home against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Frontcourt: Out on the wing for this young Timberwolves squad is number one overall pick, Andrew Wiggins, who was selected in the draft by the Cavaliers before being involved in the trade package for Kevin Love. The 19-year-old is averaging 12.6 points and 3.8 rebounds a night, although he had a 29-point outburst on Saturday against the Kings. Wiggins is going through his share of growing pains, but if the Lakers’ defensive struggles continue, he could be poised for a big night.
Thaddeus Young, another newcomer for Minnesota, returned to the lineup on Wednesday after missing time because of a death in the family. Young struggled in his first game back, hitting just one of his ten shot attempts to finish with three points. After being away from the team for five games, some poor play in his first game back is understandable, but the Lakers can’t expect a repeat of that performance. Young is one of the leaders of this Wolves team, so he’ll be looking to bounce back in a big way.
Gorgui Dieng has filled in at center the past four games for the injured Nikola Pekovic, who is listed as questionable for tonight’s game with a sprained wrist. If Pekovic is ready to go, the Laker big men will be in for a physical battle. Standing 6’11” and approximately 295 pounds, Pekovic is a brute force down low, which has helped him average a near double-double in his nine games played so far this season (11.9 points, 8.1 rebounds). Dieng on the other hand is a much more slender 233 pounds, but offers more athleticism and length at the position, even though his game is less polished than Pekovic is. Whichever one starts is a threat on the glass that the Lakers will need to address.
Backcourt: With both Ricky Rubio and Kevin Martin sidelined for awhile, opportunity presented itself in the form of a spot in the starting lineup for Mo Williams. At 31 years old, Williams is an “old” guy on the team, offering leadership for the youth that the Timberwolves possess. He missed Wednesday’s game against Milwaukee with an illness, and if it keeps him out again tonight, high flying rookie Zach LaVine is waiting in the wings. However, if he does return to the lineup, they will be getting one of their best ball distributors back (5.9 assists per game).
Starting alongside Williams, amidst recent trade rumors, is the veteran Corey Brewer. So far in his eighth season, Brewer is averaging 11 points and 3.2 rebounds in 25.7 minutes per game. Similar to Wiggins, Brewer’s biggest impact is felt on the defensive end, where his 6’9″ frame and great length can cause problems for opposing teams. He is also a solid athlete and a high energy guy that can pester teams with his effort alone.
Keys to Victory:
Team Defense: After starting 2-2, the Timberwolves have lost eight of their last nine games. The Lakers need to put forth a strong effort on the defensive end to ensure that Minnesota isn’t able to develop an offensive rhythm and end their struggles. One way for the Lakers to be more effective on that end is to give Ed Davis plenty of minutes, as he is by far the team’s best rim protector and defender overall. Another way would be to slow the young and athletic Wolves down, forcing them to run a heavy dose of halfcourt sets instead of impose their current pace that ranks as the sixth highest in the league.
Ball Movement: The Lakers are dead last in defensive efficiency this year, but right behind them is Minnesota. If there is constant man movement and ball movement, quality scoring opportunities should present themselves to the Lakers. Having Kobe Bryant assume his role as a facilitator is what is best for the team’s offense, as Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley acknowledged after Wednesday’s game. That also means that the other guys need to be aggressive and ready to take shots when they are there.
Limit Turnovers: As I mentioned, the Timberwolves love to get out and run with their young legs. The most effective way to slow a team down is to take care of the basketball. Not only will it limit their chances out on the break, but it will maximize the number of shot attempts the Lakers are able to get against an inadequate defensive Minnesota team.
Minnesota Timberwolves (3-10) at Los Angeles Lakers (3-12)
7:30 PM PST, November 28, 2014
Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
TV: TWC SportsNet
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Timberwolves Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Mo Williams
SG: Corey Brewer
SF: Andrew Wiggins
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Gorgui Dieng
Key Reserves: PG: Zach LaVine, SF: Shabazz Muhammad, PF: Anthony Bennett
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Jeremy Lin
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Carlos Boozer
C: Jordan Hill
Lakers vs. Grizzlies: Kobe Bryant, “It’s Frustrating, Period.”