Five Keys To Victory For The Wolves At Lakers
The Wolves could use a win on Wednesday night against the Lakers. It won’t come easy—when you’re playing LeBron James it never does—but the Wolves beat the Lakers already this season just over a week ago so a victory is certainly in the realm of possibility. Here’s what they need to do:
It’s a basic thing but it’s so, so important. In the games the Wolves have been competitive in or won, they’ve held things down on the boards. It’s very hard to get a victory if you can’t finish out defensive possessions or get second-chance opportunities. The Wolves have definitely regressed in rebounding so far this year. Last year they were one of the best rebounding teams in the league. This year? Not so much. Luckily, the Lakers aren’t exactly elite either. This is a winnable category and one the Wolves need to lock down.
With Jeff Teague injured and Derrick Rose moving into the starting lineup, the Wolves will rely on Josh Okogie to provide them with good minutes at the backup two. Okogie can always be relied on to play great defense, but the Wolves will need him to hit his shots as well. If Okogie is cold, Thibodeau could turn to James Nunnally or C.J. Williams, but neither player is as good of a defender as Okogie. He needs to deliver. Okogie has shown flashes as a high-impact player on both sides of the ball, but consistency on offense needs to be his number one priority when he’s in the gym. He’s a good finisher and a decent shooter, but he has taken a few bad shots. It’s better that Okogie is too confident than too timid, especially because he’s clearly talented, but the Wolves need him to be efficient as well as impressive.
Move the ball
The Wolves offense is at its best when they share the ball and find the best shot available. In the first half of Monday’s loss to the Clippers, that’s exactly what they did. However, as the game went on Minnesota turned more and more to isolation basketball with the occasional kick out. With their primary distributor Teague out, Wolves players who don’t usually have as many playmaking responsibilities need to step up and get their teammates involved. The Wolves are in the middle of the pack in total assists this so far this season. Getting more people involved will only improve the offense.
Avoiding turnovers is always important, but it becomes doubly so against a Lakers team that loves to play at an extremely fast pace. With their length and athleticism, Los Angeles is very dangerous on the break. A big part of keeping the Lakers from getting out in transition is making shots, the other part is taking care of the ball. Efficiency becomes more important when the team you’re playing loves to punish sloppy mistakes. The Wolves can run too—they don’t need to grind the game to a halt, but Minnesota should force the Lakers to play their game, not succumb to giving Los Angeles what they want.
Return to form at the line
At the beginning of the season the Wolves were one of the best teams at both getting to the line and making their shots once they were there. However, they’ve fallen off a bit as of late. The Wolves should be aiming to shoot more that 30 free throws every night and converting at least 85 percent of them. That number is directly tied to their aggressiveness and willingness to move the ball. When the ball is moving and the Wolves are attacking, they’re far more likely to catch defenders out of position and force them to commit fouls. If the Wolves sit on their heels and give defenses time to adjust they’ll have a far more difficult time getting to the charity stripe.