The (55-23) Los Angeles Lakers are in the land of 10,000 lakes to face the (15-63) Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Lakers took one on the chin last night by losing a very winnable game to the Nuggets. However, Kobe Bryant not suiting up was a game time decision and understandable.

The Lakers showed great effort in erasing a 15-point deficit to get back into the game, but some uncharacteristic things happened down the stretch. They came up dry on two straight possessions toward the end of the game, although what has me still scratching my head was to see the team play solid defense and the possession should have ended with Shannon Brown blocking J.R. Smith’s shot and the Lakers securing the rebound with a great shot at a great win without Kobe Bryant.

Two decisions sealed the Purple and Gold’s fate last night; Shannon Brown’s ill-advised pass and Phil Jackson deciding not to use one of two available time-outs to set up a play without the best closer in the business in uniform.

The fact of the matter is that the Lakers still need just one win in the last four games of the regular season to wrap up the top seed in the Western Conference. That win will happen tonight on the road against the Timberwolves.

The Lakers can’t take anyone lightly to include tonight’s opponent. The positive that the Lakers Nation can take away from last nights game was that even with a skeleton crew, the team put up a solid effort and were in position to win the game. That statement couldn’t be said throughout the most recent five-game road trip.

It is imperative that the Lakers receive a contribution from everyone tonight.

The Lakers have to come out aggressive on both ends of the court tonight and play with a high energy level. The Lakers have to continue to use excellent player movement and excellent ball movement to outwork the Timberwolves. The Lakers have to make Pau Gasol the focal point of their offense and play through him.

Gasol led the Lakers in points, rebounds and assists last night. Gasol and Ron Artest led the way last night and it is time for Lamar Odom to get into the act.

Odom disappeared offensively last night which could be due to him playing through some injuries, but this team can ill-afford nights like that. As talented as Odom is he can be the X-Factor for the Lakers every night.

The Lakers have to get healthy before the playoffs to be able to defend their title. You will see a different Lakers team when the playoffs begin. Tonight you’ll see the Lakers play solid defense, stop the dribble penetration, control the tempo, get back in transition, out-rebound the Wolves, and the reserves making more of an impact.

Tip-off: 5:00 PM PST

Television

  • Los Angeles: KCAL 9 (Joel Myers & Stu Lantz)
  • Minnesota: KSTC-45 (Tom Hanneman & Jim Petersen)

Radio

  • Los Angeles: 710 ESPN (Spero Dedes & Luke Walton)
  • Minnesota: 1130 AM KFAN (Allan Horton & John Focke)

Injuries

Lakers:

  • Ron Artest (Left Heel Bruise/Sprained Left Thumb)
  • Shannon Brown (Sprained Right Thumb)
  • Kobe Bryant (Avulsion Fracture, Right Index Finger) Out to Rest
  • Andrew Bynum (Left Achilles Strain) Out
  • Sasha Vujacic (Sprained Right Shoulder)
  • Luke Walton (pinched nerve, back) is probable.

Timberwolves:

  • Wayne Ellington (upper respiratory infection) Questionable
  • Al Jefferson (Personal Reasons) Out