The Lakers were without Kobe Bryant or a true point guard (at least one that Mike D'Antoni would play--the Lakers did officially sign Kendall Marshall this afternoon prior to tonight's game). Despite playing with some makeshift floor generals, the Lakers were still able to take down Minnesota.
A lot of that was their transition offense, which the Wolves just could not stop. Add to that the difficult shots that their swingmen were hitting (Nick Young, Jodie Meeks & Xavier Henry)--coupled with Minnesota's inability to get into any kind of rhythm on the offensive end.
Nick Young, Xavier Henry & Pau Gasol absolutely killed the Wolves tonight. Pau has been clashing with Mike D'Antoni for the past couple weeks over his role on the team and his role on offense. Despite his clashing with the head coach, he had one of his best games of the season. The Lakers may have been without a point guard, but Pau helped out in that capacity--he finished with 8 assists on the night and fell just 2 assists shy of a triple-double. Minnesota's big men all took turns against him defensively, but Gasol was just playing like the All-Star he was just a few short years ago.
It's hard to understand how a team can take down the NBA's best team (Portland) one day and that win is sandwiched in between two games where the Wolves played like a team looking for a high lottery pick come June (despite the fact that, that pick would go to Phoenix as part of the Wes Johnson deal). Oh...hey, speaking of Wes, guess who the Lakers' starting shooting guard is? Jodie Meeks. Oh...and Wes starts at small forward.
I, like most Wolves fans pray that the return of Chase Budinger & Ronny Turiaf can alleviate a lot of those concerns. Unfortunately I don't think they're the antidote. Neither is a trade, so the Wolves need to take the group of guys that they have available to them. It's not as simple as just shooting their way out of this slump. The Wolves offense isn't the (biggest) concern. If the Wolves can't play even average team defense, then I personally guarantee that we'll find ourselves on the outside looking in come April.
Why couldn't Derrick Williams cut it in Minnesota? One simple word. Inconsistent. Why can't the Wolves cut it in the Western Conference? One simple word. Inconsistent. I was hoping the one word to describe this team this season would be: contender or elite or dominant, etc. That's just not the case and until the Wolves can figure out these defensive woes, we'll have games where we're blowing out the NBA's best and others where we're losing to the bottom feeders.
The Timberwolves kept this one close throughout, but the Lakers were able to pull away in the final few minutes for the victory. A small part of that was some questionable calls by the officials (ie: an offensive foul on Barea & a number of blatant 'no-calls' on Minnesota's big men. The rest was shoddy defense and the inability to get anything going offensively.
The Timberwolves didn't make a field goal over the final five minutes of gameplay! While you expect this team to be able to get their points (with offensive dynamos Love, Pek & K-Mart), that just wasn't the case. At the end of the day, the Timberwolves simply got overworked on both ends, all night!
Tonight's box score...
The Wolves dominated the offensive glass--they finished with a season-high 22 offensive rebounds, 10 of those came from Nikola Peković, which is a new career-high for the big fella. That work on the glass was about the only thing the Wolves did well tonight.
The Wolves shot a miserable 35% from the field and 23% from deep, while allowing yet another opponent to shoot above 50% from the field. I thought that this team would be a lot of fun to watch--a real offensive juggernaut, but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather have a dominant defensive team that struggles to put points on the board! A lockdown squad that's going to make you work for every possession. The Wolves don't have the personnel to accomplish that, but they do have the potential to be much, much better than this!
The Wolves move a game below .500 once again and it gets no easier as they'll face a team they've already seen twice this season (both losses)--the Clippers on Sunday night. Stay tuned for the preview, thanks for reading and C'MON WOLVES!!!