Following a demoralizing loss to the worst team in the NBA, the Los Angeles Lakers were lucky enough to leave the arena, hop a flight to Minnesota, and arrive at their hotel rooms late enough to hit the bed and nothing else.
On the second day of a back-to-back, the morning shootaround does not take place. Players report to the game, and they play.
Friday's opponents, the Minnesota Timberwolves, are not bad or good. They’re a mediocre team with a couple talents that can add electricity to the game. Those special talents are Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio and rumored to be future Laker Kevin Love.
Looking randomly at one of Love’s box scores, one cannot help but marvel at the 6-foot 10-inch power forward’s all-around game. Against Phoenix a couple home games ago, Love finished with 36 points, 14 rebounds, nine assists, and two steals in 38 minutes. The Timberwolves, not exactly shocking at this point, lost that game.
The statistics and talent are impossible to ignore, but winning has been the problem plaguing Love in his time with the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Five-year veteran Love has yet to make a single NBA playoffs appearance. With 12 games remaining in Love’s sixth season, the Timberwolves are seven games back. Barring the miraculous, Love’s playoff drought will enter its seventh season in the fall.
In the white air of Minnesota, Love’s 2013-14 season of 67 games averaging 26.3 points, 12.6 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game was hidden under a blanket of snow. His averages of 46 percent from the field, 38 percent from three and 82 percent from the charity stripe were rarely tested nationally and will not be tested in the intense spotlight of the postseason.
Along with a statistically impressive and relatively healthy season from Love, Rubio has started all 70 games this season.
The natural talent in Rubio's passing game is constantly curbed with criticisms of the Spaniard’s poor shooting. This season, though, Rubio is shooting a higher percentage from the field and the free throw line. Although 34.5 percent from three-point range is not exactly worth bragging about, it is on pace to be the best mark in the Spaniard's third season.
From last season to this season, the point guard’s turnovers are down and his assists are up, too.
Rubio has improved, Love has stayed healthy, but the Timberwolves remain mediocre. The Timberwolves’ problem is defense--Laker Fans should relate.
Averaging 106.3 points per game, Minnesota has the fourth-highest scoring offense in the NBA--behind only the Clippers, Rockets and Blazers (in order). Defensively, however, Minnesota allows 103.3 points per game, ranking fourth from bottom in the conference.
Of course, the Los Angeles Lakers are bottom of that list allowing 108.4 points per game. Related, Friday should be an entertaining yet frustrating game with plenty of points and no sign of defense.
Winding down the season, watching the Lakers means evaluating talent on the roster. On Friday, fans can also entertain the idea of Love in LA, which should just about double the amount of talent Laker fans can evaluate.
The LA Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves tips-off at 5 pm Pacific Time.