Lakers at Wolves
7:00 pm Central
Since their win over the Timberwolves in LA on December 20th improved their record to 13-13, the Lakers have been in free fall. They have lost 18 of their last 21 games to drop to 16-31 and 13th in the West.
Everything has gone wrong for a team that was clearly on the precipice entering the season: injuries have decimated them, especially in the back court where Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash have combined to appear in 12 games, and backups like Steve Blake, Xavier Henry, and Jordan Farmar have missed significant time as well. The situation has deteriorated to the point where Jodie Meeks, Nick Young, and Wesley Johnson are three of the top four Lakers in minutes played on the season.
They are particularly weak on the boards, where they are in the bottom five in rebounding percentage at both ends of the floor, an area where the Wolves, even without Nikola Pekovic, need to exploit, especially as the Lakers are without their best big man, Pau Gasol, who has a minor injury that should keep him out. Ryan Kelly is tonight's most likely starter against Kevin Love at power forward, and Chris Kaman, also slowed with injury, is probable at center. That's a pairing that Love needs to exploit inside and out.
It's really a broken team. One the Wolves need to take advantage of in order to get back to .500. Again. For at least one night, as they go back out on the road tomorrow against the Thunder, and the in New Orleans against the Pelicans. Then they have three home games heading into the All-star break, but they are tough ones: Blazers, Rockets, and Nuggets.
Frankly, I have more or less given up on this as the breakthrough playoff season. Too many losses, too tough a conference. The 13 game stretch that started against the Wizards and ended with the back to back against the Jazz was crucial--I wrote then they needed to go 10-3 to put themselves in position. Instead, brutal losses to Phoenix and Sacramento among others left them at 7-6. That wasn't good enough.
This stretch of games heading into the All-star break might, however, provide the answer to PoorDick's fanpost question. The have six games left--where they stand at that point might very well influence what the Wolves look to do at the deadline, which is February 20th. There might not be much they can do, as either a buyer or seller (depending on whether they are willing to listen on Love, which I don't think they are at this point no matter what happens), but their approach could be determined over the next six games.