Game Preview: Lakers vs. Timberwolves

Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn | US PRESSWIRE

Image Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn | US PRESSWIRE

The Los Angeles Lakers visit the Target Center Friday night to face the Minnesota Timberwolves. The T-Wolves enter the matchup on a five game losing streak, losers of 10 out of their last 11 games. Similar to the Lakers, the T-Wolves have been hampered by injuries all season. Minnesota has been somewhat rejuvenated by the recent returns of Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic, so expect the T-Wolves to come out scratching and clawing for a win.

The Lakers, winners of 3 out of their last 4 games, enter Minnesota riding some momentum. Coming off an embarrassing loss in Phoenix, however, the Lakers will look to snap their current 8-game road-losing streak. Unfortunately, the Lakers could be without All-Star center Dwight Howard, who is listed as day-to-day with a ‘sore right shoulder’.

Expect Kobe Bryant to continue his stellar facilitating on offense Friday night, although he may need to shoulder more of the scoring load if Howard is unable to go. The Lakers, like the T-Wolves, have struggled with consistency this season, so it will be interesting to see which teams show up for this one.

While the Lakers prepare for Friday night’s game in frigid Minnesota, I linked up with John Flesta from the Timberpups blog for a Q&A game preview.

Here’s our Q&A …

Pups Question #1 for John:

After a promising off-season, this regular season has gone in similar fashion as the Lakers’ season. Injuries have played a major factor in this season’s disappointment, but with Kevin Love out at least another five weeks and Brandon Roy still out indefinitely, is there still time to salvage this season? Or is it time to start looking towards next season?

John:

While I am probably not supposed to admit this, I am no longer expecting the T-Wolves to make the playoffs this season.  At the beginning of the season I went on record saying that they were a lock to make the tournament.  I think it was less than a week after that article went on our site when Kevin Love broke his hand doing knuckle push-ups.  The Wolves are going to need a good amount of help and a lot more luck on their side to sneak into the playoffs.

However, I have a hard time looking towards next season in January/February.  There are still a lot of intriguing storylines for the team; A. Can Rubio return to form, B. Does Love come back this season if the team falls way behind in the standings, and C. Is Derrick Williams on this team after the trade deadline?  I really do not want to think about ping-pong balls when this season had so much promise!

Lakers Question #1 for Alex:

Let’s get right to the gorilla in the room; what is your take on Mike D’Antoni and will he be the coach for the Lakers next season?  I’ve always viewed him as the perfect assistant coach who can run the offensive side/end of a practice, similar to an offensive coordinator in the NFL that is terrible when they get a head coaching gig. Your thoughts?

Alex:

I agree with that assessment. Mike D’Antoni was certainly a mistake by the Lakers’ front office this season. Along with his inability to utilize the Lakers’ unique culmination of talent, D’Antoni has remained stubborn in forcing his up-tempo system upon a roster that simply doesn’t fit. D’Antoni’s controversial benching of players late in games, as well as his inability to manage superstars, have also hampered the Lakers’ team chemistry lately.

The Lakers, more specifically the players, have since gone away from his failed system and are now finding success with better ball movement and spacing. Kobe Bryant’s facilitating and offensive leadership have spearheaded this newfound success.

The Lakers will not terminate D’Antoni’s three-year contract this season, due to the obvious financial ramifications, but it is certainly possible that D’Antoni is replaced in the off-season. If the Lakers really want to make pending free agent Dwight Howard the future face of the franchise, they may need to bring in a coach with a system more tailored to the Lakers’ premiere big man.