Preview: Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

Preview: Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
Lakers forward Pau Gasol, center, is double-teamed by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, left, and Kevin Martin during the Lakers' 113-90 loss at Staples Center last month. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

The Lakers (12-13) play the Minnesota Timberwolves (13-13) on Friday night at Staples Center.

The Lakers will be without Kobe Bryant, who suffered a knee injury on Tuesday and will be out four to six weeks.


The Timberwolves took advantage of Bryant's absence (while recovering from an Achilles' tendon tear) on Nov. 10, beating the Lakers handily 113-90.

Minnesota scored 47 points in the first quarter, and got huge performances from Kevin Martin (27 points) and Kevin Love (25).

The Lakers will be without Steve Nash (back), Steve Blake (elbow), Jordan Farmar (hamstring) and Bryant.

Xavier Henry, usually a shooting guard, is likely to start at point guard even though the team is expected to have point guard Kendall Marshall signed to a contract in time to play Friday.

Key matchup

The Lakers can't let Kevin Love get wide-open looks from three-point range.

Love hit four of nine from long range and 8 of 17 overall.

Pau Gasol may have a difficult time chasing him outside of the post.  Jordan Hill has greater mobility than Gasol, but his strength is in rebounding.

Shawne Williams and even Wesley Johnson may be the best options defensively against Love.


The Lakers need Henry to initiate the team's offense, a challenge given he doesn't have advanced pick-and-roll skills.

Henry needs to avoid turnovers and over-dribbling.  The Lakers are going to need to rely on simple passes and plays to score.

At least Henry, at 6-foot-6, has the size to guard 6-foot-4 Ricky Rubio.

Rubio is a poor shooter but one of the best playmakers in the league.  In November he dished 27 assists against the Lakers.  Henry struggled, scoring just two points on one-of-eight shooting.


If the Lakers have Marshall available, how much can he contribute without much, if any, practice time with his new teammates?


The Timberwolves have struggled over recent weeks, falling to .500.

The Lakers would actually overtake Minnesota in the standings with a win, climbing into 10th place in the Western Conference.

The Wolves are not great defensively but they can score.

For the Lakers to win, it will likely start on the defensive end -- given the team's uncertainty at point guard and the absence of Bryant.

If Martin and Love are hitting shots, the Lakers could be in for a long night.


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