Scouting Report: Wolves at Lakers


Wolves (18-17) at Lakers (20-14) - 9:30 PM Staples Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

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The Timberwolves have officially eclipsed their win total from the 2010-11 season. Tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, they’ll look to continue their strong play that has yielded five wins in six games.

When the Wolves take on the Lakers at 9:30 p.m. at Staples Center, they’ll be looking for their third straight victory and in the process will try to climb to two games over .500 for the first time this season. A year ago, Minnesota won 17 games total in 82 contests. This time around, Minnesota finds itself 18-17 and playing competitive basketball on a nightly basis.

Any rust the Timberwolves had coming out of the All-Star Break quickly disappeared Tuesday against the Clippers, as the Wolves made their first 10 shots in the fourth quarter and pulled away in a 109-97 victory at Staples Center. Tonight, they’ll face a Lakers team playing its first game since before the break. Los Angeles is coming off a 100-85 road defeat against Oklahoma City on Thursday but is 5-2 over its past seven games. The Lakers are 14-2 this season at Staples Center.

Last time out

The Lakers came to Target Center and stole a 106-101 win over the Wolves on Jan. 29, and like tonight Minnesota entered that game having won two in a row. The Timberwolves fought back from an 18-point deficit in the game to take a one-point lead with minutes to go, but Lakers guard Kobe Bryant intervened with four of his 35 points coming down the stretch in a five-point victory. The Lakers’ front court put together a strong performance, as forward Pau Gasol finished with 28 points and center Andrew Bynum scored 21 points in the game—the two combined for 19-of-29 shooting. Wolves forward Kevin Love finished with 33 points on the night to go with 13 rebounds. He and center Nikola Pekovic combined for 14 offensive boards in the game. The Wolves finished with just four turnovers in the contest.

Bench play provides a spark

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Tuesday’s victory over the Clippers was solidified by the Wolves’ bench play. Minnesota’s bench outscored the Clippers’ reserves 72-11 in the contest, led by forwards Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams. Beasley finished the night with 27 points on 11-of-15 shooting, while Williams had 27 points on 9-on-10 shooting. The two combined to shoot a perfect 7-for-7 from the 3-point line. The strong play was essential, as Love got into foul trouble early then suffered a rib contusion. Love, the NBA’s leader in minutes logged per game, played only 25 minutes in the game and didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter.

“It all started with Derrick,” Beasley said. “It’s his night; it’s his city. He is just playing the game he’s been playing for 21 years. I expect that out of him every night. I wasn’t a bit surprised.”

Lakers banged up

Bryant had a big night at Sunday’s All-Star Game in Orlando—he scored 27 points and eclipsed Michael Jordan as the all-time leading scorer at the event. But while driving to the basket in the third quarter, Bryant suffered a broken nose and concussion-like symptoms, according to the Los Angeles Times, after taking a hard foul from Miami’s Dwyane Wade. Bryant, who leads the league with 28.4 points per game, is officially listed as day-to-day. Meanwhile, Bynum played just six minutes in Sunday’s All-Star Game after recently receiving an injection in his right knee. According to ESPN.com, he said after Tuesday’s practice that he’s ready to go.

Key matchup: Pekovic vs. Bynum

Despite Bynum’s strong statistical game the last time these two teams played, there’s no question Wolves center Nikola Pekovic’s physical presence wore on the 24-year-old All-Star center. Bynum made the comment postgame he was thrilled whenever Pekovic was not in the game. Tonight, the two will battle again in the paint and could have a big impact on the final score. The last time these two teams met, Minnesota held a 24-7 offensive rebounds advantage thanks in part of Love and Pekovic combining for 14. If Bryant plays, he’ll get his points. It’s up to Pekovic and the rest of Minnesota’s front court to limit the Lakers’ productivity near the basket—Bynum is currently averaging 16.3 points per game and is third in the league with 12.8 rebounds per night.

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