Timberwolves at Lakers Preview

Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

The Wolves begin back to back games at the Staples Center tonight with a game against the Lakers.

Wolves at Lakers
8:30 pm Central
FS North

So here's something fun: This is the boxscore for the last time the Wolves beat the Lakers. That would be March 6th. Of 2007. Ricky Buckets.

The Wolves need to put an end to years of frustration against the Lakers, and they need to do it tonight. The Lakers are at perhaps their lowest talent ebb since those post-Shaq years, with Kobe Bryant still recovering from his achilles injury, Dwight Howard in Houston, and Steve Nash and Pau Gasol nowhere near what they once were.

With the offensively potent Clippers waiting in the wings for Monday night, the Wolves need to extend their good start tonight and guarantee themselves a split in Los Angeles.

The Lakers have been below average on both sides of the ball, and despite their relative lack of talent, are playing at the highest pace in the league, thanks to coach Mike D'Antoni. They have been terrible inside the arc, making only 41% of their two point shots, but have kept afloat by taking and making a lot of three pointers. Jodie Meeks and Steve Blake have both been shooting lights out from behind the arc, a trend unlikely to continue, as is our old friend Wesley Johnson maintaining a 38% success rate from three.

Defensively, they haven't shown too much interest in limiting the quality of their opponents shot attempts, though they have done well on the defensive glass.

D'Antoni is playing 11 guys more or less regularly, with 10 players averaging 15+ minutes and nobody more than Steve Blake's 31.  On the wing he's rotating through Meeks and Johnson, Nick Young and Xavier Henry...it isn't a pretty group. Chris Kaman has moved into the starting lineup the last couple of games to play beside Pau Gasol.

D'Antoni's strategy seems to be to run guys in and out, play fast, and hope the threes go in. It's sort of worked to the tune of a 3-4 record, but the Lakers are getting outscored by more than seven points a game. To be fair, however, they have also played the toughest schedule in the NBA thus far.

The Wolves need to make sure they matchup in transition, and not allow the Lakers to get wide open looks from the arc. If they can force the Lakers wing players to have to make plays on their own via the dribble, it should result in a good defensive night. Offensively, it would be good to force Steve Nash (if he plays) to guard the pick and roll with either Love or Pekovic, and great to see Pek start converting shots.

Expected Starters

Lakers

Steve Nash*
Steve Blake
Nick Young
Pau Gasol
Chris Kaman

*Nash didn't play in their last game, but I've not heard he will be out tonight. This is the lineup they started against Houston on Thursday. UPDATE: One of the Lakers' beat guys tweeted that Nash will start tonight.

Wolves

Ricky Rubio
Kevin Martin
Corey Brewer
Kevin Love
Nikola Pekovic

We'll be back with a game thread later.

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