Tim's Game Preview: Game 45, Los Angeles Lakers

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It is the end of an era, as only Kobe Bryant remains from the Lakers' three-peat teams in 2000-2002.

Minnesota Timberwolves (22-22) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (27-16) at STAPLES Center

The Los Angeles Lakers made two deals that would normally be considered fairly minor, but given that the team traded Derek Fisher and Luke Walton, the atmosphere around the team could be strange tonight. Fisher, aside from a brief stint with Golden State and Utah, has been with the Lakers as long as Kobe Bryant. Walton won three titles alongside Bryant and has been with the team since 2003.

Now, Fisher is in Houston, Walton is in Cleveland and Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill are in Los Angeles (Christian Eyenga is expected to be designated to the Lakers' D-League affiliate). Sessions is certainly an upgrade from Fisher on the court, and Hill can provide some additional front court help, but the loss of Fisher's locker room presence and veteran leadership could prove noteworthy. Fisher is one of the only players who Kobe Bryant listens to and is capable of reigning in the Black Mamba when he needs it.

The Wolves, meanwhile, need to bounce back from an overtime loss to the Utah Jazz and snap a 17-game losing streak to the Lakers. It is the longest active streak in the NBA by one team over another.

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A point guard like Ramon Sessions could actually help the Timberwolves right now. What could have been...

Projected Starting Lineups

C: Nikola Pekovic vs. Andrew Bynum
PF: Kevin Love vs. Pau Gasol
SF: Wesley Johnson vs. Metta World Peace
SG: Martell Webster vs. Kobe Bryant
PG: Luke Ridnour vs. Steve Blake

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Kevin Love has sat out the last two games the Wolves played against the Lakers, including last Friday's "Rubio Game".

Last 5 Games

Minnesota Timberwolves: (3rd in Northwest, 11 1/2 behind OKC; 9th in West, 2 gms behind Denver for 8th)

Wed, Mar 7: Win vs. Portland 106-94
Fri, Mar 9: Loss vs. LA Lakers 102-105
Sat, Mar 10: Loss vs. New Orleans 89-95
Mon, Mar 12: Win at Phoenix 127-124
Thu, Mar 15: Loss at Utah 105-111 (OT)

Los Angeles Lakers: (1st in Pacific; 3rd in West, 6 gms behind OKC for 1st)

Wed, Mar 7: Loss at Washington 101-106
Fri, Mar 9: Win at Minnesota 105-102
Sun, Mar 11: Win vs. Boston 97-94
Tue, Mar 13: Win at Memphis 116-111 (OT)
Wed, Mar 14: Win at New Orleans 107-101 (OT)

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GM Mitch Kupchak and the Buss family are hoping that these recent moves can keep the Lakers' championship hopes alive. Laker fans are still pining over Michael Beasley, however, which says quite a bit in my opinion.

Injuries

Minnesota Timberwolves:

Michael Beasley - Questionable with a sore left toe

Kevin Love - Probable with an injured hand

Ricky Rubio - Out for the season

Los Angeles Lakers:

No significant injuries

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Andrew Bynum has averaged 27 points, on 68% shooting, and 14.5 rebounds over the last four games. In other words, he's playing really, really well.

Noteworthy Stats

  • Comparing Laker point guards
    Steve Blake: 8.3 pts, 5.2 asts, 2.0 tos, .486 TS%, .054 WS/48
    Derek Fisher: 8.2 pts, 4.6 asts, 1.9 tos, .479 TS%, .062 WS/48
    Ramon Sessions: 15.4 pts, 7.6 asts, 2.9 tos, .514 TS%, .098 WS/48
  • Jordan Hill is only averaging 14.7 minutes per game, but he has a PER of 15.3 and currently averages a double-double per-36 minutes (12.4 pts, 11.9 rebs)
  • Last season, Nikola Pekovic led the league in fouls per-48 minutes (9.8). This season, he is 191st in the league at 4.4 fouls per-48. Dallas' Ian Mahinmi is the leader for 2011-2012 at 7.5.
  • Only 8 players this season in the NBA have had a triple-double. None of the 8 play for the Lakers or the Timberwolves. The Lakers had two last season (Gasol and Bryant). The last Wolves' play to record a triple double was Kevin Garnett, who had 3 of them in the 2006-07 season.

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Even with the recent turmoil, head coach Rick Adelman and assistant coach Jack Sikma are helping Minnesota fans keep the faith about this season.

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