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Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Lakers 90, Timberwolves 79 - At the buzzer

By Brian Kamenetzky

It will not go down in the time capsule, but it will go into the win column. The Lakers knock off Minnesota Tuesday night in an aesthetically unpleasing, muddy game.

But it was enough to do the trick, and continued the team's strong upward trend on the defensive side. Here's how it broke down...

Highlights:


David Sherman/NBAE/Getty Images
Andrew Bynum was large inside on both sides of the floor against Minnesota Tuesday night.


1. Andrew Bynum. The mantra from the coaching staff is always the same; rebound and defend. Rebound and defend. Tonight, he did plenty of both. While he only had seven boards overall, five came on the offensive glass. He was particularly aggressive attacking L.A.'s misses (of which there were plenty) early in the game, earning major persistence points in the process. Around the eight minute mark, Bynum volleyed a Kobe Bryant miss, keeping it alive for Pau Gasol to eventually grab. He snared the ensuing miss from Gasol, plus the one that followed before putting the ball in the bucket himself. On the other end, he managed to block two shots and alter plenty of others, moving well in the paint in support of his teammates.

Offensively, despite long stretches where he didn't get the ball- a problem all night as the Lakers settled for too many early jumpers (see below)- he stayed active, continuing to work for position and taking advantage of mismatches, namely any time Anthony Randolph came near him and the Lakers were attentive enough to deliver the rock. Nor did he force things unnecessarily, making the pass when appropriate. If not for some foul trouble early, his final line could have been better, but overall he played a strong game on a ragged night for the Lakers.

2. Defense. The Wolves are a horrible offensive team from an efficiency standpoint, this much was apparent going in. But they're also a reasonably high-scoring group because they like to get out and push. Despite a host of less-than-ideal shots (see below) on the offensive end, L.A. limited Minnesota's opportunities to run, not only forcing them into a halfcourt offense, but a slow one at that. The Wolves managed only 78 field goal attempts on the evening. Save a sluggish first few minutes, the rotations were sharp, putting repeatedly putting Minnesota in situations where they had to take forced jumpers late in the clock.

Other highlights on the defensive side were abundant. To name a few...

3. Rebounding. As noted before the game, the one thing Minnesota does well is rebound, particularly on the offensive end (in part because they miss shots at a higher percentage than all but three teams in the NBA). Tonight, the Lakers won the overall battle on the glass 53-39, but more importantly shut off opportunities for second chance points. Minnesota had only 10 ORBs despite misfiring 47 times, an outstanding percentage. Moreover, five of those came in the first quarter, meaning the Lakers completely shut off access to the glass for the rest of the game.

By comparison, the Lakers had 18 offensive rebounds off 50 misses, a much healthier figure.

4. The Stretch Run. Once the Lakers figured out they were allowed to move without the ball, it was easier to put some distance between themselves and the Timberwolves.  They had Kobe find Lamar Odom late in the clock flashing through the lane, with about a minute left in the third, Luke Walton finding an active Bynum on Randolph on the block, or Odom hitting Shannon Brown for a reverse layup.

Add in a few jumpers and the Lakers scored enough to get it done.

Lowlights:

1. Shooting. It's something the Lakers had done well coming out of the break. Tonight, whether Minnesota was in a man or zone D, they sagged down hard in an effort to force jumpers from the Lakers. It worked, and L.A. spent most of the game tossing bricks. In the first quarter, the Lakers managed only five field goals on 22 tries (22.7 percent). In the second, it wasn't much better (nine-for-24). Derek Fisher and Artest combined to hit only four of 19 FGA's, Gasol was an uncharacteristic three-of-10 (though he certainly chipped in with 17 rebounds), and for a while, Kobe was off the mark as well, hitting six of his final 10 shots after a two-for-eight start.

Most of the problems came from lack of movement and patience, though in fairness there were plenty of instances where the Lakers got penetration whether off the dribble or entry pass and made the right pass... then missed the shot anyway. Sometimes that'll happen.

2. Turnovers. 16 overall, and while they weren't punished too badly off the mistakes (18 points), it's too many giveaways against a bad defensive team. It's 16 opportunities they lose to score, in addition to pressure added to the defensive side of things.