GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Lakers - March 27, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: Ballgame. The Wolves had a chance, as Kobe missed 1-of-2 free throws and Rubio got the rebound with 3.4 left and took the ball up court. He got caught from behind by Bryant and looked like he was fouled as Bryant's hand hit both of Rubio's arms, but this one ends in the Lakers' 22nd straight against the Wolves. More postgame access, highlights and analysis coming on Timberwolves.com. LAL 120, MIN 117

Q4 9.4: Dante made it a three-point game with a jumper, but Kobe answered with 1 of 2 from the free throw line. Dante scored on a put-back to make it a two-point game again at 117-115. Nash was fouled and goes to the line. He hits two, and it's a 119-115 game. LAL 119, MIN 115

Q4 48.3: The Wolves are making this one a game down to the finish. They cut the once 15 point deficit down to three with a minute to play on a Budinger put-back score, but Kobe answered with a pull-up jumper to make it a 116-111 game with 48.3 remaining. LAL 116, MIN 111

Q4 5:41: Dwight Howard just benefited from a Lakers' offensive rebound and threw down a monster jam that helped extend the L.A. lead up to 106-92. There is a timeout on the floor, the t-shirts have been tossed out by the Wolves Dancers, and this is the time for Minnesota to make a move. L.A. has won 21 straight games and are going for their sixth straight season sweep against the Wolves, and they are in prime position. Now it's Minnesota's turn to make a run. LAL 106, MIN 92

Q4 8:41: Minnesota cut the lead to nine at 93-84 but it's back up to double digits with just under nine to play. Minnesota just needs to get their shots falling. That's been the whole thing all year. We're starting to see Dante regain his stroke from just inside the 3-point line, which is great to see, and if they could hit a couple 3-pointers here in the next couple minutes we'll see a whole different ballgame in the final three minutes. One thing that we'll also probably see is how Dwight Howard's free throw shooting factors in. He's shooting 4-of-7 right now. LAL 99, MIN 88

End Q3: Sorry for the technical difficulties here in the third, will likely be updating a little less frequently if this persists. The Lakers were unconscious in the third, shooting 18-25 from the field and opening up a 12-point lead heading into the fourth. Kobe put on a show, hitting 7-of-9 shots and upping his total to a game-high 24 points. Gasol and Jamison have 15, and Howard has 14. For the Wolves, D-Will and Pek continue to lead the way with 15 each, while AK and Luke have 11 each. This fourth quarter hinges on slowing down the Lakers' offensive attack while also starting to pick up a few of those turnovers once again. L.A. had 15 in the first half, but only three in the third. LAL 91, MIN 79

Halftime: The Wolves headed into the half down by four as Los Angeles benefited from 12 from Dwight Howard and 10 more from Kobe. The Wolves got 13 points from Pek on 4-of-10 shooting, while AK had six and Chase Budinger had five. The Wolves are shooting 3-of-9 from distance but could really use a spark from outside in this second half. Minnesota turned it on in the third with a monster offensive/defensive effort in Detroit, and that's the type of connection they're looking for here in this matchup with the Lakers. LAL 50, MIN 46

Q2 5:52: Alexey Shved just hit a corner 3, knocking down his first trey of the night and ending an 0-for-5 stretch from distance for the Wolves. Blake answered with a 3 of his own, and he puts the Lakers up 39-34 midway through the second. The Wolves are still getting turnovers from L.A.--the Lakers have 12 already--but Minnesota only has eight points off those turnovers. The Wolves are coming back out of the timeout with Barea, Shved, Budinger, D-Will and Pek on the court. LAL 39, MIN 34

End Q1: Nice first quarter for the Wolves as they trail by three but in the grand scheme of things let a couple opportunities get away that would have likely had the Wolves heading into the second with a lead. One was a turnover on an inbound pass from the baseline, and only being able to cash in six points on seven Lakers turnovers has hurt, too. Pek already has 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting, and Ridnour has five. Gasol has nine and Howard has five for the Lakers. LAL 26, MIN 23

Q1 4:36: A couple encouraging signs early on in this game for the Wolves. For one, AK is very assertive and already has muscled his way to the basket twice for four points and picked up a foul on Kobe in the process. The Wolves are also shooting 50 percent early, including picking up where they left off last night as Luke hit the team's lone 3-point attempt. Minnesota will need to watch that matchup down low, as Hohward and Gasol are a combined 5-of-7 for 10 points early. But Howard already picked up a foul on Pek, and Pek has had a history over the last two years getting DH12 into foul trouble. He did it last year in Orlando and this year in their lone meeting in L.A. It's back and forth so far. LAL 16, MIN 15

Starters:
Lakers:
PG-Steve Nash, SG-Jodie Meeks, SF-Kobe Bryant, PF-Pau Gasol, C-Dwight Howard

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

Pregame 6:30 PM: It seems last night's Timberwolves' shooting barrage in Detroit was noticed by this Lakers crew, because they've talked at shootaround and pregame about the Wolves playing well and being a tough task tonight here at Target Center. Minnesota made 14 3-pointers against the Pistons, and there's no question that ability to knock down treys this year has been sorely missed. When they're able, it spaces the floor and opens up some lanes for penetration and for Pek to start getting to work under the basket with less bodies on him. That's what we saw last night in Detroit.

"It was nice to see, I mean we shot the ball really well," coach Rick Adelman said. "But we had good spacing, too. We had guys who were open, and they knocked them down."

That's going to be a key tonight against the Lakers, because we know they can score. Kobe Bryant is knocking on the door of becoming No. 4 on the all-time NBA scoring list, and Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol both back and playing side-by-side L.A. certainly has a size advantage over Pek and Derrick Williams down low.

And with Metta World Peace out, one thing the Lakers do feel Jodie Meeks can bring offensively is spacing in their own offensive sets. We'll certainly see Earl Clark and Antawn Jamison as well, and both have done their part this year in helping the Lakers when they've seen time.

So it really comes down to how well Minnesota shoots from outside, because if they shoot sub-30 percent from distance it won't do much to stop this L.A. 21-game win streak against this franchise. Lakers coach D'Antoni said he's well aware it's possible for Minnesota to get hot, and he didn't need to look any farther than last night's game for evidence.

"They're playing loose," D'Antoni said. "They have a lot of guys that can score. Rubio sees the court very well, Budinger coming back helps them. Derrick Williams is turning into a really good player. There's a lot of ways they can get you."

Meanwhile, the Wolves will obviously be without Kevin Love again tonight. Adelman talked about Love's timetable and said he's not sure exactly when he'll get his hand examined. Love said it will be later this week. He said he'd like to see Love back on the court if he's cleared in order to evaluate what this team looks like when everyone is healthy.

"I'd like to see our guys on the court together—we haven't seen it very much, and that helps us as far as moving forward, too," Adelman said.

Pregame: 4:00 PM: It’s been an injury-plagued season for the Los Angeles Lakers—something the Timberwolves understand themselves—but small forward Metta World Peace had been the most durable member of the L.A. roster throughout the campaign.

Until now.

The L.A. Times reported this afternoon World Peace will undergo surgery to repair torn cartilage in his left knee and will miss six weeks. He is not in Minnesota for tonight’s game as he was evaluated this morning, and at this morning’s shootaround the Lakers began preparing for life without him—a defensive asset that had played in a team-high 70 games heading into tonight.

It’s a major blow for a team in the thick of the playoff race, currently sitting in the eighth spot one game ahead of the Jazz and Mavericks. What that means for tonight against the Wolves is a shift in their starting lineup. Coach Mike D’Antoni said Jodie Meeks will be inserted as a starter, with Kobe Bryant likely taking over small forward duties defensively.

But with L.A. sitting at 36-35 and holding on to a playoff spot, news of World Peace’s injury only adds to the notion that this veteran roster needs to focus on doing just a little bit more to get into the postseason. They’ll take their chances from there.

“Everybody needs to elevate, we need to elevate because we’re barely over .500,” D’Antoni said. “Not because Metta goes out, but we have to elevate anyway.”

If Minnesota is able to take down the Lakers tonight, it would be a feat that not only would hinder L.A.’s postseason aspirations but it would end a streak six years in the making. The Wolves have lost 21 straight to L.A., the longest active winning streak by one NBA team against another. The Lakers have won the last 10 at Target Center, including a 111-100 win on Feb. 1 this year. L.A. also won 116-94 at Staples Center on Feb. 28, with this being the third and final meeting of 2012-13.

Guard Steve Nash said getting that third win isn’t going to be an easy task.

“They’re getting healthy, but they’re also playing very well,” Nash said. “We’re well aware they’ll be a tough team for us to play tonight.”

Nash said it’s been a season full of adversity, but if there’s one thing the team has is veteran leadership that has been through the pressures of winning games down the stretch. He said the Lakers have essentially being fighting to make the playoffs since January, and by dropping winnable games early in the season they’ve put some of that pressure on themselves to put together a string of wins in the final three weeks.

“The big thing for us is just injuries, too,” Nash said. “We’re trying to get Pau [Gasol] back, not only thorugh healthy but also to feel integral. We lost Metta now it seems, so it’s just constantly moving and we’ve never been able to finish who we are. That’s probably the biggest challenge. We do have veterans, but trying to find cohesion. Hopefully the cohesion helps us through the next few weeks.”

Here are a few notes prior to tipoff:

  • Rick Adelman is four wins shy of reaching 1,000 NBA coaching wins -- a plateau previously reached by only seven coaches.

 

  • With their 105-82 win last night in Detroit and their 117-86 win in Phoenix on Friday, the Wolves recorded 20-point victories in consecutive road games for the first time in team history.

 

  • Ricky Rubio is averaging 14.1 points, 5.8 rebounds, 7.9 assists and 2.11 steals over the last nine games. He has recorded a triple-double and a double-double over this stretch.

 

  • Derrick Williams is averaging 16.2 points and 7.4 rebounds over the last 24 games. He has been the Wolves' leading scorer in nine of the last 17 games.

 

  • Nikola Pekovic has grabbed an offensive rebound in the last 66 games he's played -- the 2nd longest active streak in the NBA (Kevin Love, 75).

 

  • Pekovic is shooting 69.2% (18-for-26) in the last three games. He has recorded 23 double-doubles this season.

 

  • The Wolves have recorded fewer turnovers than their opponent in 15 of the last 18 games (one tie), averaging 14.3 turnovers per game compared to 17.3 for their opponents.

 

  • The Lakers, who have lost their last three games, are in 8th place in the Western Conference, one game ahead of Utah and 3.5 games behind Houston. The Lakers have only missed making the playoffs once (2004-05) in the last 18 seasons.

 

  • Los Angeles is 13-23 on the road this season, including a 6-16 mark against the West.

 

  • Kobe Bryant (31,354 points) is 65 points shy of tying Wilt Chamberlain (31,419) for 4th place on the NBA' all-time scoring list. Bryant has scored 40+ points seven times this season and 119 times in his career.
    • Dwight Howard ranks 1st in the NBA in rebounding with 12.5 rpg. He has grabbed 15+ rebounds in a game 24 times this season, including nine of his last 12 games.

     

    • Howard is averaging 18.8 points, 15.1 rebounds and 2.90 blocks over the last 10 games.




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