The Los Angeles Lakers are coming off an overtime victory over the Spurs. If the Lakers can beat the defending champs then surely they should be able to handle the inexperienced and injury-riddled Timberwolves. Recently the T-Wolves have suffered a plethora of injuries to key players Kevin Martin, Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and Mo Williams. Earlier this season the Lakers suffered a heartbreaking 120-119 loss to the T-Wolves. Kobe missed a potential game winner at the buzzer. Tonight Kobe has the chance to pass Michael Jordan on the all-time scoring list. He just needs nine points to move up to third on the league’s career scoring chart.
Frontcourt: Gorgui Dieng has filled in admirably at center in Pekovic’s absence. Dieng is a great rebounder and decent shot blocker. He’s coming off a solid game against the Thunder in which he totaled 11 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals. He did a little bit of everything in that game and showed off his versatility. Luckily for the Lakers frontcourt – they won’t have to worry about Dieng’s limited offense.
Rookie Andrew Wiggins started off the season slow but he’s really starting to pick things up lately. He’s getting more opportunities with so many T-Wolves players sidelined with injury. Over the last three games Wiggins has averaged 20.6 points and 7 rebounds. He’s a freaky athlete who is continuing to get better on defense.
With eight years of playing experience, Thaddeus Young is the grizzled veteran of this baby-faced T-Wolves squad. Young is a solid role player who would probably flourish in a support role on a championship contender. On this squad he’s been thrust into the forefront and is expected to lead the team. He went off for 22 points against the Lakers earlier this year
Backup Shabazz Muhammad can score in a hurry off the bench and the Lakers will need to mark him when he enters the game. He doesn’t shoot many threes, but he uses his body well and does most of his damage in the paint.
Backcourt: Since Rubio and Williams went down with injury, the reins have been turned over to the hyper athletic rookie Zach LaVine. LaVine has been very inconsistent this year often looks lost on the court especially on defense. He’s doesn’t have the passing vision of Rubio and has struggled with turnovers in recent games.
Defensive specialist Corey Brewer starts at shooting guard. His offense is limited to fast breaks and easy lay-ins, but he hangs his hat on defense. Brewer is adept at generating steals and he’ll try to make life difficult for Kobe tonight.
Keys to Victory:
Teamwork: Kobe showed trust in his teammates down the stretch against the Spurs. Instead of taking wild shots, he made passes which eventually led to open baskets. Kobe recorded nine assists and the team is usually at it’s best offensively when Kobe looks to get his teammmates involved. Jeremy Lin also has the ability to facilitate the offense and he needs to look to be aggressive and smart with the ball. Lin has a penchant for driving to nowhere and losing the ball. But when he is able to penetrate off a screen he transforms into a very dangerous dribble-drive player. In summary the Lakers need to move the ball around and get everyone involved on offense.
Defensive Effort: The Lakers proved that they can defend when they want to. They held the Spurs to 46.7 percent shooting in their recent victory. If the Lakers guards can prevent penetration, they can severely limit the T-Wolves offense since they lack jump shooters. The T-Wolves also lack a true interior threat, so the Lakers need to force them to shoot contested shots and not allow easy lay-ups. Given that the T-Wolves struggle on defense as well, expect tonight to be a shootout.
Heading into today’s game, the Lakers are favored by three points according to Sportsbook.ag.
Los Angeles Lakers (7-16) at Minnesota Timberwolves (5-17)
7:30 PM PST, December 14, 2014
Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
TV: TWC SN, NBA TV
Radio: 710 ESPN (English) / 1330 ESPN (Spanish)
Timberwolves Projected Starting Line-up
PG: Zach LaVine
SG: Corey Brewer
SF: Thaddeus Young
PF: Andrew Wiggins
C: Gorgui Dieng
Key Reserves: SF: Shabazz Muhammad G: Mo Williams F: Anthony Bennett
Lakers Projected Starting Lineup
PG: Ronnie Price
SG: Kobe Bryant
SF: Wesley Johnson
PF: Ed Davis
C: Jordan Hill
Lakers Practice: Kobe Bryant’s Trash-Talking & Intensity