Lakers Look to Extend Dominance of WolvesDate Posted: 27 January 2012 2 Comments
The Lakers’ season has been described as ‘bipolar’. An excellent home team, but a mediocre road team, thus an uncharacteristically average regular season record so far. The Lakers look to solve their road woes as they visit the team they had dominated in the last 15 meetings.
The Timberwolves have shown marked improvement, thanks to Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The arrival of Rubio brought back interest to a franchise which had struggled badly since KG moved to the greener pastures of Boston five years ago. And with the improving game of Love, the Wolves are looking to move a step forward in their development. They look to end a five-year drought against the Lakers this Monday morning.
Kobe Bryant has been the NBA’s leading scorer this season, thanks to a four-game 40-point streak, but at age 33, and with extended playing time, it remains to be seen whether his injured wrist and his aging knees would take its toll come playoff time. However, despite his age, Bryant’s all-around game remains a defensive challenge for the Timberwolves, who will counter with rookie Derrick Williams, Wayne Ellington and Wesley Johnson in guarding Bryant. Backups Devin Ebanks and Jason Kapono, however, are still searching for an identity, so expect more from Bryant.
Ricky Rubio has turned everyone’s heads with his stellar play at the point. The rookie leader in assists, Rubio will be matched up against 37-year old Derek Fisher. Though he can still be relied on for late-game situations, Fisher’s game has been on the decline recently. Rookie guard Darius Morris, entrusted as the backup due to Steve Blake’s rib injury, will have the enviable task of shadowing Rubio’s every move. Off the bench, Luke Ridnour will continue to provide the steady veteran leadership for the young Wolves. Rubio’s other backup in J.J. Barea, whose speed and outside shot humiliated the Lakers in last year’s playoffs, remains questionable due to a sprained left ankle.
With Michael Beasley out indefinitely, Williams and Johnson will have to fill that void at the three. However, neither is a reliable outside shooter, which presents a problem for the Timberwolves due to the Lakers’ inside dominance. On the other hand, Matt Barnes’s shooting and Metta World Peace’s defense will be keys for the Lakers.
The length of the Lakers’ Twin Towers in Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will present a problem for the shorter and unproductive Minnesota frontline. For all of Kevin Love’s rebounding prowess, he doesn’t have the privilege of a reliable backup. The two Anthonys (Tolliver and Randolph), DarkoMilicic and Nikola Pekovic will have their hands full against Gasol and Bynum. Josh McRoberts has ably filled in for either Gasol or Bynum, but his role is more on the defensive side, leaving Troy Murphy to fill up the score sheet on occasion. If the lane is clogged, then expect Love to nail some treys at the Target Center as well.
Considering the Wolves’ improved game as well as the Lakers’ road struggles, expect the game to be a closely-fought contest, probably going down the wire. Catch this game on Monday, January 30, 2012 at 8:00 a.m. LIVE on BTV!
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