"We're talking about the fact that we're relevant right now. We've made a run here that got us to that position. We can win games and we can stay right there," says Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman, and rightfully so! The Timberwolves have been playing great basketball these past few games, that's gotten them into the playoff picture in the Western Conference, as the Wolves are currently tied for the 8th seed in the West with the Houston Rockets, however since the Timberwolves won the season series over Houston, if the playoffs started today, Minnesota would be in the playoffs for the first time since their last appearance in 2003-04!
Rick Adelman has certainly turned the Timberwolves from laughingstock to one of the most competitive clubs in the Association! "I don't think anybody can really say that we're the laughingstock of the NBA anymore, if you come in here thinking that, you're going to catch an 'L' real quick," says second-year swingman Wesley Johnson, following his best performance of the season vs. the Blazers on Wednesday.
I doubt, however, that the Los Angeles Lakers are going to be overlooking anyone, following their last game in which they were defeated & humiliated by the Washington Wizards. The Lakers were up by 21 points as they led 76-55 in the third quarter. Kobe was on fire the entire first half and Andrew Bynum said after the game: "I was out there kind of loafing around and having a good time." However, that quickly changed as the Washington Wizards' second-unit went on a big run late in the game as they ended up edging the Lakers 106-101! Kobe was held to 1-of-10 shooting in the second half as the Wizards celebrated their 9th win of the season. Kobe finished that one with 30pts on 9-31 shooting, Pau & Bynum both added 19 in the loss.
As successful as the TWolves have been this year, they definitely had their struggles against the Lakers this season, losing both contests between the teams, the first one: 106-101 and the second 104-85. Here are the gameday recaps of both of those games from our archives...
The Lakers currently hold a 17-game winning streak over the Minnesota Timberwolves that they'll look to push to 18 in tonight's game. The 17-game winning streak for LAL is currently the longest active streak of wins that one team holds over another! However, the TWolves have been 'rolling' lately and they hope that'll continue tonight. A win tonight not only snaps that nasty skid to the Lakers that has spanned over five years, but it'll also be Minnesota's first 6-game home winning streak in almost 8 years! The last time they were able to string six home wins togther? March 21-April 12, 2004! With the Wolves' win over Portland on Wednesday, that was their first five-game, home winning streak since the 2006-07 season!
The Wolves are currently 21-19 on the season and 12-10 at the Target Center this season, they've also won their past three games. The Lakers are currently 23-16 on the year, but have had their struggles on the road, holding just a 6-14 record away from the Staples Center.
Since these two teams' last meeting (2/29) both have played four games. In that time the Lakers have gone 2-2, while the TWolves have gone 3-1. The Lakers had wins over the Kings & Heat, but recently dropped two games to some of the NBA's cellar-dwelling teams: Detroit and of course, Washington. The Pistons were able to take down the Lakers in overtime 88-85. The TWolves had a loss to the Suns, the very next day (after playing LAL), but since have bounced back with a win over the Clippers and two wins over the Trailblazers (recaps of those games can be found in previous posts under our "Gameday" section on this site.
The Timberwolves are hoping that Nikola Pekovic is able to return from his foot injury. If he's unable to go, Darko will again get the start. Either way, I'd expect Darko to see a solid 'chunk' of minutes tonight as the Wolves will struggle defensively against the Lakers' big men: Pau Gasol & Andrew Bynum.
J.J. Barea is doubtful for the game after suffering that left-ankle sprain, Wednesday vs. the Blazers. The Wolves have recalled Malcolm Lee from the D-League and it's possible he could make his NBA debut in the coming days. Adelman says Lee is for 'insurance-sake' in case other players get in foul trouble or if they lose another guard to injury. Though, he clarified by saying, he'll hold no reservations about putting the young guard in, if the situation calls for it.
The key tonight as it has been in the previous two meetings: Contain the Lakers' "Big Three" (Kobe, Gasol & Bynum). If just one of those players has an off-night it bodes well for Minnesota. Along with that, limiting turnovers and the Lakers' fast break points, while forcing their big guys out of the paint and making LAL beat them from the perimeter will be key in a TWolves W tonight at the Target Center.
The Minnesota Timberwolves will be having a whiteout tonight vs. the Lakers, as they set out over 19,000 white t-shirts for the expected sellout crowd at the Target Center.
To the right is a picture of the thousands of shirts set out around the Target Center for a TC crowd that will hopefully be bellowing in the final minutes of tonight's game: "BEAT LA!"
That's all for now, as always, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!