The Timberwolves have won two straight following wins over the Dallas Mavericks and the San Antonio Spurs--earlier this week. Two impressive wins over champion-contending teams. But, before you relish in that fact--both teams were missing their best player. The Mavs were without Dirk and the Spurs were without Manu. Still very talented and capable veteran teams--but, now they'll be facing the best shooting guard AND one of the most formidable frontcourts in the NBA! Yes, Kobe Bryant is still #1 beating out Dwayne Wade.
The Lakers--once a franchise powerhouse of the West, has lost one of their key pieces for nothing to the Dallas Mavericks (Lamar Odom) and the pieces they added this season were Jason Kapono, Troy Murphy and Josh McRoberts.
The biggest question going into this game for this one is who will be in the starting lineup. First off--I just can't see Luke Ridnour starting at shooting guard and matching up defensively against Kobe Bryant. I wouldn't rule it out--but I'm not sure it'd make sense. My guess is Wesley Johnson moves to the shooting guard and maybe Michael Beasley returns to the starting lineup or possibly Derrick Williams. The other big question is who starts at center. I'd like to take this time to throw my support to Nikola Pekovic to the starting lineup. If nothing else--I pray Darko is sick again so I can see a powerhouse matchup of Bynum & Pek! If the defensive Darko is healthy I'd expect Adelman to start him against the second-best center in the League: Andrew Bynum. Darko missed practice on Saturday, but IS expected to be able to play on Sunday.
The Lakers have lost eight games this season. They've lost to the Bulls, Kings, Nuggets, Trailblazers, Clippers, Heat, Magic and Pacers. Their last game was a win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. They'll be facing the Bucks today (Saturday)--so unlike the Wolves they'll be playing back-to-back. In that Clippers game, it was a close five-point win over their in-city rivals. Kobe had 24pts, 7rebs & 6ast--Pau had 23pts & 10rebs--Bynum added 19pts and rookie Andrew Goudelock provided 14 off the bench.
The best matchup should be a battle of Western Conference All-Star forwards: Kevin Love vs. Pau Gasol. Pau is a better post scorer and defender and has a couple inches on Love, however Kevin is a far superior mid-range shooter, three-point shooter and rebounder--it should be a good game for both these talented big men. How Kobe matches up with (likely) Wesley Johnson will be interesting as well. Wes has proven to have his best games against Bryant and the Lakers--we'll have to wait and see if that remains true.
The biggest thing for Minnesota will be it's depth. They may not have a superior starting lineup--but they definitely have the better bench and now that they're getting healthier and are getting a lot of those injured players back--guys like Tolliver, J.J. (may not play), Webster, Ellington, Williams, Pekovic & Miller are far superior to the likes of the Lakers bench: Steve Blake, Darius Morris, Andrew Goudelock, Jason Kapono, Metta World Peace (Ron Artest), Devin Ebanks, Luke Walton, Josh McRoberts & Troy Murphy.
The Lakers may be a struggling team--compared to their former glory, but they're still a team that can come out and beat anyone in this League. It should be a good battle of veteran vs. upstart.
Thanks for reading HOWL, we'll have a gameday recap of this one following the final horn as well as some game pictures and videos. GO WOLVES!