The Minnesota Timberwolves (4-2) are off to one of their best starts in franchise history.
They’ll visit Staples Center on Sunday night, looking to end a 22-game losing streak to the Lakers (3-4).
The Lakers have the opportunity to improve to .500, despite playing without Kobe Bryant (sidelined with an Achilles’ tendon injury).
Power forward Kevin Love missed most of last year with hand injuries, but he’s had a tremendous start to the 2013-14 NBA season, averaging 27.2 points and 14.7 rebounds.
The Lakers are going to have to use a tandem of players to challenge, including Pau Gasol, Chris Kaman, Wesley Johnson, Jordan Hill and possibly Shawne Williams.
Gasol is coming off a pair of difficult shooting nights in which he hit just 1 of 10 against the Houston Rockets and 3 of 12 in New Orleans visiting the Pelicans. The Lakers need a stronger performance offensively from Gasol against the Wolves.
Kevin Martin is shooting 46.7% from the field, an impressive 56.7% from three-point range and 90.2% from the line. If the Lakers let Marin have an efficient night, the Wolves could be a problem.
The difficulty for the Lakers is trying to guard the 6-foot-7 Martin with the 6-3 Steve Blake.
Blake hit a big shot against the Houston Rockets on Thursday, playing a steadier game in the second week of the season than he did in the first.
The Lakers need their minutes’ leader (Blake, at 30.9 a game) to give a strong performance on both ends of the floor against Minnesota.
The Lakers are vulnerable against the Wolves’ talented starting five.
Minnesota isn’t the deepest team in the league. They’re also not necessarily a strong defensive unit.
Reserve guard J.J. Barea has burned the Lakers in the past, notably in the playoffs with the Dallas Mavericks.
The Lakers played well for most of the last two games, with big lapses in both (one win in Houston, the loss in New Orleans).
Sunday is a winnable game for the Lakers, but it’s going to take a more consistent effort to beat Minnesota, even at Staples Center.