GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Lakers - Feb. 1, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: That's the game from Target Center. The Wolves fell 111-100 tonight, though they did put together a strong comeback attempt after trailing by 29 points in the first half. Shved led the Wolves with 18 points, while D-Will had 15, Pek and Barea had 14 and AK had 12. For the Lakers, Gasol had 22, Jamison had 18 , Bryant and Nash had 17 and Clark had 13. Check back throughout the night for postgame analysis, photos, interviews and highlights. LAL 111, MIN 100

Q4 2:22: Time is running out on the Wolves as Rubio just turned the ball over with a travel, and the Wolves are trailing by nine with just over two minutes left. Great comeback attempt here and there is still time, but with Kobe on the floor it's going to be a challenge to keep him from getting looks he wants and keeping him off the line. And if that isn't enough, he's three assists away from a triple-double (15 points, 12 rebounds, 7 assists) LAL 103, MIN 94

Q4 5:39: I said earlier we'd learn a little bit about Alexey Shved tonight thinking it would be on the defensive end, but really the impressive part of his game so far has been his calm demeanor on the offensive end against the mighty Lakers. He's got 18 points tonight to lead all scorers and is 5-of-8 from 3-point range. He just went 1-of-2 from the free-throw line, but after a Chris Johnson offensive rebound and kick out to Shved at the top of the key, he hit again from distance to cut it to four. Pau Gasol answered on the other end, extending the Lakers lead to six. LAL 96, MIN 90

Q4 8:42: If the Wolves don't come back to win this game, it will be because of poor free-throw shooting and being unable to keep the Lakers from snagging timely offensive rebounds. Minnesota trails by 11 and is 5-of-13 from the stripe tonight. Meanwhile, L.A. has gotten three or more looks at the basket on several possessions tonight, something the Wolves can't afford to give up in a game in which they once trailed by 29. LAL 89, MIN 78

End Q3: Alexey Shved just cranked out a 3-pointer from about 28 feet that ended up nothing but net, and it cut the Lakers' once 29-point lead to nine here as we enter the final 12 minutes. Minnesota held L.A. to 17 points in the frame and have cooled them off considerably from the field. L.A. was shooting 70 percent midway through the second but are now connecting on 45 percent overall from the field. Meanwhile, Shved is 4-of-6 from 3-point land tonight with 12 points. D-Will has 15, tied for the game-high in scoring, and AK and Pek also have 12. For the Lakers, Nash has 15, Gasol and Clark have 13 and Bryant has 11. LAL 85, MIN 76

Q3 2:59: L.A. is a far cry from what they were shooting in the first quarter and a half, but they've made enough plays over the last four minutes to push their lead back up to 12. They've had a couple situations in which the Wolves have settled for shots early in the shot clock, and they've resulted in missed opportunities and Lakers points on the other end. Coming out of this last timeout, Alexey Shved just found Andrei Kirilenko cutting baseline for an alley-oop jam, another really nice play from the Wolves here tonight. LAL 81, MIN 69

Q3 7:11: Don't look now, but the Lakers have gone cold and the Wolves are starting to show life. They just cut their once 29-point deficit to eight points after Ridnour forced another turnover, passed it to Ricky who passed it right back to Ridnour for the lay-in. Minnesota is 7-of-10 from 3-point range tonight all of a sudden and they're shooting 50.9 percent from the field. Meanwhile, the Lakers are shooting 0-for-6 this half from the field. LAL 72, MIN 64

Halftime: After a half in which the Lakers seemingly couldn't miss, even holding a 29-point lead on 70 percent shooting, the Wolves have cut the lead to 15 at the half. The first moment that really unified the Target Center crowd was an electrifying defensive play with minutes left in the first half. Rubio and Luke worked together to create a turnover on Kobe, and Luke threw a behind the back pass to Rubio in transition. Rubio then hit a trailing D-Will with a bounce pass backwards in the paint and D-Will threw down a monster slam. Right now Pek leads the Wolves with 12 points, while Rubio, Shved and D-Will each have nine. Rubio also has five assists. For the Lakers, Gasol and Clark have 13, Nash and Blake have 10 and Kobe has eight. LAL 68, MIN 53

Q2 2:44: We've seen a nice pick-me-up from the Wolves' backcourt tandem of J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved tonight. The two have combined to go 5-of-7 from 3-point range tonight and have a combined 17 points. It's not a bad offensive night for the Wolves in the shooting department, as they're hitting 50 percent of their shots and are 6-of-8 from 3. The problem is the Lakers are still shooting 61 percent from the field and are getting huge production from their bench and their All-Stars in the starting lineup. LAL 64, MIN 47

Q2 6:44 The bad news is the Lakers haven't found a way to miss yet tonight as they're shooting 70 percent and hitting 75 percent from 3-point range. The worse news is they're continuing to shine with their bench in, as Steve Blake and Jodie Meeks have combined for 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range. On the bright side, Minnesota is 5-of-5 from 3-point range tonight as well. But they're still being out-rebounded 17-9 and the Lakers continue to put together incredible ball movement. 63, MIN 38 Q2 9:23: Well, the Lakers are currently 14th in the league with a team 35 percent efficiency from 3-point range. Tonight, they're shooting 77.8 percent. It's impressive how unrealistic that statistic is for a real-life NBA game. But the Lakers are really benefiting from sharpshooting on the perimeter, as all five starters plus two reserve players have hit from deep. Minnesota finds itself down 18 here minutes into the second. LAL 49, MIN 31

End Q1: We're about to find out a little more about what Alexey Shved is made out of. Kobe is crushing it on the boards, leading both teams with six, and he's also got seven points and four assists. But Shved just responded with a three in transition to end the quarter, cutting this Lakers lead to 13. I'm intrigued to see if Adelman sticks with Shved on Bryant, or goes to AK and Gelabale, because Luke just doesn't have the length right now to match Kobe, particularly on the boards. L.A. owns a 13-4 advantage on the glass tonight, and they've got 12 assists on 15 field goals while shooting 68 percent from the field. They've also hit 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Hot start, but we'll see if things average out momentarily. LAL 37, MIN 24

Q1 2:44: The Lakers are putting together a healthy dose of 3-pointers, moving Gasol around the floor and some offensive rebounds sprinkled in here and there, and they're currently on a 19-8 run. Metta World Peace had two opportunities to drain a 3-pointer moments ago, and Nash followed it up with a 3-pointer from the same spot. If the Lakers continue to own Minnesota on the boards (11-3 right now), it's going to be a long night. We're about to see Kobe vs. Shved as Alexey checks in. LAL 27, MIN 12

Q1 7:22: After a quick Wolves basket to start the game, Los Angeles went on a quick 8-0 run that, unfortunately for the Wolves, included four points from Earl Clark. When you've got Nash, Kobe and Pau on the court, it's not a good sign when Earl Clark is scoring. Minnesota got a boost from Ricky, who drew an offensive foul on Kobe and gave Pek an opportunity on the other end to hit a baseline hook that ended L.A.'s run. But Pau Gasol hit a three, and the Lakers just forced Minnesota to call timeout with a 13-4 lead. This will be a tough cover tonight, with Gasol already spending time outside because of his previous situation playing alongside Howard, and if he can hit shots away from the basket and draw Pek or another Wolves defender out of the lane, it will create a lot of room for Nash or Bryant to penetrate and facilitate. LAL 13, MIN 4

Starters:
Lakers:
PG-Steve Nash, SG-Kobe Bryant, SF-Metta World Peace, PF-Earl Clark, C-Pau Gasol

Wolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 7:50 PM: Coach Rick Adelman didn't have too much sympathy for the Lakers as they'll play without All-Star center Dwight Howard tonight.

"Nice guy to put in there, [Pau] Gasol]—he's only an All-Star almost every year," Adelman joked. "In some ways he presents a lot of problems, just as Howard did. He can pass the ball, he can score inside, he's smart, he's long. So it's still going to be a tough job."

Howard only matched up against Nikola Pekovic once last year in Orlando, and in that meeting Pek certainly came away victorious in their 1-on-1 battle despite the Magic winning the game. Pek finished with 16 points and 13 rebounds, and his physicality got Howard into foul trouble early and kept him on the bench for more than 20 minutes. But Gasol had four efficient games last year against the Wolves, including a 28-point effort in their meeting on Jan. 29.

Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni said the Lakers will begin with Gasol guarding Pek and might switch to Metta World Peace due to his strength. Pek certainly has the power and strength advantage tonight, but Gasol is a gifted big man who also has a height advantage over the 6-foot-11 Pekovic.

"Energy collectively is going to have to be good," D'Antoni said. "We're going to have to keep people out of the paint, try to make up for his lack of presence at the rim, but we can do it collectively."

Meanwhile, another pretty important matchup looms at the shooting guard position, something that could be known as Kobe vs. the field. Bryant will match up with Luke Ridnour to begin tonight's game, and Adelman said Alexey Shved will also get his time. There is always the opportunity to rotate Andrei Kirilenko to Bryant like the Wolves did when Dwyane Wade had a big first half against the Wolves in December, but that always prompts another issue in who rotates to the 3 spot.

Adelman said Shved has the size and length to face Bryant, but does he have the strength and experience?

The best option, Adelman said, is probably going small. But the Lakers might dictate if that's possible.

"Our best option might be to have three guards on the court with Alexey at small forward," Adelman said. "If we can match up. But it's tough when they have the lineup they have out there."

Pregame 6:05 PM: Which Kobe Bryant will we see tonight at Target Center? I'm as curious as anyone about this. Bryant averaged 33 points per game in December and was essentially a lock to push toward 40 during the early months of the season, but over the past two weeks he's become much more of a facilitator as the Lakers began to figure things out. They're 3-1 in their last four games, counting a slip-up in the fourth quarter against Phoenix on Wednesday, and in that stretch he's averaging 16.5 points, 12.0 assists and 7.8 rebounds per game. Certainly a different Kobe than the scoring machine we're used to, and interesting considering the Lakers now have one of the most revered passing point guards in NBA history on their team, but it's working and Bryant isn't questioning it.

"It feels good, you just try to do whatever it takes to win," Bryant said at shootaround. "Trying to figure things out, even if it's just adjusting your game as dramatically as I have."

Bryant averaged 34.5 points per game in two contests at Target Center last year, and he did it in such a workman's fashion that it really didn't seem like he was putting up those types of numbers. But like Bryant said, he'll do whatever is necessary to win.

And the Lakers can taste their turnaround in the making. They're 20-26, but they're beginning to get a little swag back.

"I think we're close," Bryant said. "We let one slip in Phoenix the other day, but it doesn't take away from the way we played for the majority of the game. We played extremely well on both ends of the floor."

Pregame 5:15 PM: Welcome to Target Center for a pivotal matchup tonight between the Wolves and the Lakers. Minnesota is currently on a 19-game losing streak against the Lake Show, and if there was ever an opportunity to end that run it would be tonight. L.A. is playing better as of late, but they’re still under. 500 and fighting for that same eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race that Minnesota currently seeks. They’re also on an eight-game road losing streak, and they’re without their All-Star center Dwight Howard tonight (torn labrum in right shoulder).

That said, when tonight’s game tips off it’s still going to be a battle as the Wolves look to snap their own current losing skid. They’ve lost five straight and 10 of 11, and as they play Game 2 of a six-game homestand they’re looking for a little good fortune. A win tonight would do just that.

One thing to keep in mind for tonight: The game is televised both on ESPN and My29. Viewers who are in the Twin Cities area will need to watch on My29, and those outstate and beyond will be able to find the game on the worldwide leader. As always, you can listen on 830 WCCO-AM and the Wolves Radio Network. Tonight’s game is a late start at 8:30 p.m., so grab an extra cup of coffee to stay up if need be. More pregame notes to come.

Here are a few pregame notes as we prepare for tonight’s game:

  • The Wolves have dropped 19 games in a row to the Lakers and trail in the all-time series 21-67. The Wolves have lost the last nine at home to Los Angeles, the last 12 on the road. The last time the Wolves beat the Lakers was a 117-107 2OT win on March 6, 2007 at Target Center.


  • The Wolves enter tonight in the 12th position in the Western Conference, five games behind Houston for the final playoff spot. Tonight is the second game of a season-long six-game homsestand for the Wolves, their longest stretch at home in 12 years. The last time Minnesota played six consecutive home games was Dec. 22, 2000 - Jan. 1, 2001; it went 3-3 on that stand.


  • Wolves center Nikola Pekovic returned to the lineup Wednesday night after missing the previous five games. In 37 minutes, Pekovic tallied his team-leading 14th double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Pekovic comes into tonight averaging 18.1 pts (53.6%) and 10.0 rebs over his last 19 games (11 double-doubles).


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double figures in 23 of his last 26 games. He is averaging 14.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and 5.6 assists over his last five games. His current scoring average of 11.4 is a career best. Barea is a team-leading +25 when on the floor this season.


  • Luke Ridnour is averaging 15.1 ppg (49.5%) in seven games paired with Ricky Rubio in the starting lineup. He has scored in double-digits in 12 of the last 14 games. Ridnour is the only Timberwolves player to see action in all 42 games (all starts) this season.


  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 6.7 points, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals in 27.7 minutes per game in seven starts. He has dished out 6+ assists in eight of the last nine contests. Since the start of 2011-2012 season, Rubio has registered 6+ assists in 75% of his games, 6th best in the NBA during that span.


  • The Lakers come into tonight having won 19 straight vs. the Wolves, their longest active win streak vs. a single opponent; second-longest in franchise history. The streak is the longest active win streak by one NBA team against another.


  • Los Angeles comes into tonight with a 5-16 mark on the road, having lost their last eight contests away from STAPLES Center.


  • With nine assists Wednesday night at Phoenix, Kobe Bryant (currently with 5,664 career assists) surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (5,660) for the most assists among the NBA's five 30,000-point scorers. Bryant's 48 assists over his last four games is the most of a four-game stretch in his career. Bryant's 51 assists over his last five games ties for his most over a five-game span (51 assists from 12/3/02 - 12/10/02).


  • Bryant comes into tonight just four field goals shy of catching Hakeem Olajuwon (10,748) for 7th on the all-time list.


  • Lakers center Dwight Howard will not play tonight. The Lakers are 0-3 without Dwight Howard in the lineup.



  • For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter, and join the conversation at WolvesNation.com.