Wolves vs. Lakers Gameday

Jonah Ballow
Wolves Editor/Writer

Final: 111-108 Lakers
In one of the most exciting finishes at the Target Center this year, the Wolves could not hold off the Lakers and fell to 18-38 on the season. Odom rescued the Lakers with a put back rebound to hand Los Angeles a three-point lead with 20.5 second remaining in the game. The Lakers would then stop Minnesota on the next couple of possessions and execute from the free throw line. However, Foye almost played the role of hero with a deep, fading away 3-pointer to bring the Wolves within one point. Bryant hit two free throws and Foye missed the final shot and the Lakers improve to a league-best 47-10 on the season. Telfair finished with 20 points, Gomes scored 20, and Smith added 19 off the bench. For Los Angeles, Odom played a fantastic game with 25 points and Bryant led all scorers with 28 on the night.

Third Quarter: 80-78 Wolves
The Target Center crowd witnessed an entertaining and fast paced third period with several lead changes. Gomes opened the quarter with a 3-pointer from the left side of the court to knock the Lakers lead to 54-53. After Minnesota briefly jumped on top of Los Angeles, Bryant streaked down the court for an uncontested dunk. At the 8:45 mark, Love was whistled for his third foul but McHale elected to stay with his young rookie for most of the quarter. Speaking of foul trouble, Foye bulled over Fisher on a fast break opportunity, which resulted in Fisher’s fourth foul. The game has become more physical during this quarter with several questionable non-calls from the referee crew. Gomes leads with 17 points, Telfair with 16 and Smith has scored 16 points off the bench. Behind a furious rally in the late stages of the third quarter, Minnesota grabbed the lead. Smith returned to the court and ran the break to tie the game at 78-78. Foye would then strip Bryant from behind and find Smith again in the open floor to lift Minnesota on top 80-78. The Target Center crowd is absolutely crazed to witness their team make a run at the best squad in the NBA.

Halftime: 54-50 Lakers
The Wolves maintained the offense with the second unit, thanks to the efforts of Craig Smith off the bench. Smith scored 11 points while both teams gave its starters a rest during the midpoint of the second quarter. Minnesota started to make a run at the 3:56 mark of the period behind a 3-pointer from Gomes that tied the game at 44-44. On the following possession, Gomes brought the crowd to its feet with a fake pass to Miller on the 3-point line and finished the layup to give the Wolves a 46-44 lead. At 2:51 in the period, Foye recorded his first points of the game with a 3-pointer. Gomes leads the Wolves in scoring with 14 points and the team is shooting 44.4 percent from the field but has committed nine turnovers. The Lakers snatched back the lead with an 8-1 run to finish the quarter. Gasol has destroyed Minnesota in the paint and leads Los Angeles with 17 points.

First Quarter: 29-26 Lakers
In contrast to the games against Indiana and Miami, the Wolves are playing confident basketball on the offensive side of the floor. Minnesota is finding space in the drive-and-kick style of offense, which has led to several open shots on the perimeter. Most notably, Telfair has found the touch from the outside on 2-for-3 shooting and six points. The Wolves are also attacking the basket when the Lakers defense gets caught switching on their man. Mike Miller hit a 3-pointer to give the Wolves a 13-11 lead with 7:30 remaining in the quarter. Miller has been aggressive as a playmaker with two assists to go along with his seven points. Gomes added seven points as well to help keep the Wolves close on the scoreboard. For Los Angeles, Gasol has been a difficult matchup in the post with seven points. The Lakers are also shooting 65 percent from the field with 14 points in the paint and eight points on the fast break.

Wolves Pregame Audio
Head coach Kevin McHale

Lakers Shootaround Audio
Jonah Ballow with Kobe Bryant

Scouting Report
The Lakers are showing no signs of slowing down following the loss of their big man in the middle. Andrew Bynum will continue to miss significant time with the knee injury as Los Angeles proves to the rest of the league, they are the most dominant team in the NBA. The Lakers have won eight of their last nine games without Bynum and made a couple of trades before the deadline. On February 7, the franchise dealt sharp shooter Valdimir Radmanovic for an underachieving Adam Morrison and Shannon Brown from Charlotte. Los Angeles also sent center Chris Mihm to Memphis in exchange for a future draft pick. The Lakers own the best record in the NBA at 45-10 and 19-6 away from the Staples Center. As the league’s highest scoring team, Los Angeles scores 108.9 points per game heading into the matchup against Minnesota. While the Lakers shoot a great percentage from the field and are the best rebounding team, they do surrender 100.6 points per game as a middle-of-the-pack defensive team.

In two games against the Lakers this year, the Wolves have allowed a combined 230 points in the two losses. The Los Angeles post players have really hurt Minnesota including Bynum’s 27 points and 15 boards in the January 30 contest at the Target Center. During that most recent meeting, the Lakers outrebounded the Wolves 53-43 and captured their second victory over Minnesota this season.

Kobe Bryant is starting to increase his aggression on the offensive side of the floor without Bynum in the lineup. After the injury to the big-man, Bryant is averaging 32.4 points per game in an effort to pick up the offensive slack. Bryant is fresh off a 39-point performance against New Orleans on Friday night as the Lakers won their third straight game. This year against the Wolves, Bryant averages 28 points and continues to be the most difficult player on the court to defend. Unfortunately for the Wolves, there is not a definitive gameplan to stop the best offensive player in the entire league. Minnesota will hope to contain Bryant and limit his activity inside the paint and on the free throw line. Randy Foye will square off against Bryant to start the game tonight. In the previous meeting, Foye suffered from early foul trouble, which led to Kevin McHale adjusting the lineup with Ryan Gomes defending Bryant. Foye must stay on the court as Minnesota will rely on his defense but more importantly, his offense after scoring a career-high 36 points against Indiana.

Without Bynum, the Lakers bring Lamar Odom off the bench to play the power forward position. Pau Gasol has now moved to the center spot, where he played most of last season in Los Angeles’ run to the Finals. Both players have been terrific in replacing the production of Bynum. Gasol seems more comfortable in the triangle offense and is the perfect fit for this Lakers team in the post. He offers a variety of options when receiving the ball inside the paint, including the ability to step-out and hit the jumper, run the pick-and-roll, or find an open slasher in the lane with great passing skills. Gasol averages 19.5 points per game against the Wolves this year and will test Kevin Love on the defensive end. Odom is now an essential part of the Lakers starting lineup after spending most of the season as the sixth man. When playing to his potential, Odom is one of the most versatile players in the league. Odom will stretch the defense with his ability to hit open 3-pointers and he has the skill-set to take opposing players off the dribble. However, Los Angeles will count on Odom’s rebounding and defensive toughness in the game tonight. For the first time this year, Love will start against the lengthy Lakers frontcourt. Love should take some confidence into the contest after scoring 14 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the loss on January 30. The focus for the Wolves is to control the paint by outrebounding Los Angeles while not allowing easy buckets from Gasol and Odom.

In order to knock off the best team in the league and snap a five-game losing streak at home, Minnesota will need to play a near perfect game tonight. The Wolves will again be shorthanded with the newly acquired Shelden Williams and Bobby Brown unable to suit up due to an incomplete physical by the Kings on Rashad McCants and Calvin Booth. After several games of relinquishing an early lead, Minnesota must grab the momentum from the opening tip and get the Target Center crowd in a frenzy during the final appearance for the Lakers in Minneapolis this year. Tipoff set for 6 PM.





Projected Starters
Los Angeles Lakers
Derek Fisher
PPG: 14.9
RPG: 3.5
APG: 4.8
Kobe Bryant
PPG: 28.3
RPG: 5.0
APG: 7.0
Luke Walton
PPG: 13.3
RPG: 5.3
APG: 5.2
Lamar Odom
PPG: 13.1
RPG: 11.4
APG: 2.3
Pau Gasol
PPG: 6.2
RPG: 2.8
APG: 0.7
Minnesota Timberwolves
Sebastian Telfair
PPG: 8.6
RPG: 1.8
APG: 4.5
Randy Foye
PPG: 16.3
RPG: 3.3
APG: 4.7
Mike Miller
PPG: 9.3
RPG: 5.7
APG: 3.8
Ryan Gomes
PPG: 11.8
RPG: 4.4
APG: 1.6
Kevin Love
PPG: 9.7
RPG: 8.8
APG: 1.1