This weekend is the final trip to the STAPLES Center this season for the Minnesota Timberwolves. They'll face the Lakers tonight for the second time this season (both in L.A.) and they'll take on the Clippers for the third time this season (second in L.A.) on Sunday.
Tonight it's the Los Angeles Lakers, a L.A. Lakers team that has had a number of injuries to a lot of their key players. After the season the Timberwolves had last season, I never can feel too bad for a team (injury-wise).
The Lakers found out on Thursday afternoon that just weeks after Kobe Bryant had returned from an achilles injury, that he'd miss another six weeks with a fracture of the tibial plateau in his left knee. The injury won't require surgery, it's just a matter of letting the bone heal. Bryant won't be back in the lineup until sometime in February. The Lakers are also without point guard Steve Nash who has some nerve problems in his back that have kept him out of the lineup for quite some time now, there were some reports that he was even considering retirement, but they were quickly dismissed. L.A.'s Jordan Farmar is dealing with a hamstring injury and will be re-evaluated on December 24th and lastly, Steve Blake tore a ligament in his elbow and will be out until sometime in January.
So...that leaves the L.A. Lakers with just one true point guard. A player who was playing in the D-League just a few days ago! The Lakers signed former Phoenix Suns lottery pick Kendall Marshall from the D-League after news about Kobe Bryant's injury broke. Bryant had been basically playing the role of distributor in his return, but now they'll have to rely on failed lotto pick Marshall and a couple guys who have been known for their scoring and shooting during their NBA career than their playmaking abilities: Jodie Meeks & Nick Young to help run the team a bit.
The last time these two teams met (Nov. 10) the Timberwolves ended that nasty 22-game losing streak to the Lakers and now with a win under their belt and Kobe sidelined, they have a good chance to make it two-straight--and who knows, maybe start a big streak of their own.
The Timberwolves currently sit at 13-13 after a disappointing loss to the Boston Celtics on Monday in which they appeared to think the win would simply come to them. That issue was quickly rectified on Wednesday night when the Wolves took down the NBA's best team (at that time, record-wise) the Blazers in a 120-109 win. A game in which they built a 32-point first half lead only to find themselves in a 5-point game in the final 40 seconds of the fourth quarter. Nonetheless it was a great win and a big morale booster after one of the worst games of the season, Monday in Boston.
The last time these two teams met the Timberwolves did exactly what they did to the Blazers on Wednesday night. They attacked early and built a HUGE lead. The Lakers chipped into the lead a bit in the second half, but it was clear after two quarters that the Wolves would win that game. That'll be a big key tonight--come out ready to play right away and get up big early on these guys. The last thing you want to do is let them hang around and have Meeks & Young hitting three-pointers to get them back into the game.
The Lakers currently sit one game below .500 at 12-13 and despite having similar records, there's really no comparison to which of these teams is better. Having Kobe and all these point guards out of the lineup makes it all the easier. The Timberwolves are the superior team and they should come out and play like it, because while this team lacks talent, there's definitely a number of competitors on this roster.
The Wolves are without Chase Budinger (knee) and Ronny Turiaf (elbow). Budinger returned to full-contact practices yesterday and did some four-on-four work, he said after practice that they knee felt good, but his feet were burning and he definitely had some work to do, conditioning-wise. No actual updates on Turiaf have really been published, it's clear the injury was worse than the doctors initially thought, but according to the TWolves Public Relations twitter account (when asked by a fan last night), Turiaf is making progress every day. So...that really nails down a timetable--making it abundantly clear they have no idea when he'll get back on the court.
Tonight's game is a late 9:30pmCST start, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!