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Five things to watch in Lakers-Minnesota matchup

November 9, 2010 | 11:19 am

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1. Can all the Lakers starters play less than 30 minutes? -- The outcome doesn't even appear in question, what with the Lakers starting off 7-0 and Minnesota (1-6) clearly showing that the rebuilding project is going to take some time. No need to exert all your energy on an opponent that doesn't deserve it. The Lakers need to build up a sizable lead, grant rest to the starters and allow the bench take care of the rest.

2. Does Minnesota cause bad luck for the Lakers' health? - Another good reason for the Lakers to build up a double-digit lead entails the fact that it'll make it less likely any of the starters get hurt. That's a universal fact in all games, but for some reason the Timberwolves were present for some rather significant Laker injuries. In a meaningless regular-season game Dec. 11, 2009, former Lakers guard Jordan Farmar fed a poor entry pass to Kobe Bryant that ultimately resulted in an avulsion fracture to his right index finger, and arthritis eventually developed in the knuckle. Then in March 19, 2010, Lakers center Andrew Bynum strained his left Achilles tendon while running up and down the court, an injury that sidelined him for the final 13 regular-season games. I don't really believe in omens, but perhaps some of the Lakers do.

3. See Kevin Love on the bench: UCLA fans might feel inclined to attend the Lakers game tonight considering Love, a former Bruin, will be in town. Not a bad idea, just don't expect him to play much. Perhaps Minnesota Coach and former Laker Kurt Rambis will consider otherwise considering this is a homecoming for Love and, well, he is a good player. But it would strongly deviate from what has happened so far. With the T-Wolves trading Al Jefferson to Utah this summer, it was assumed Love would receive more than a bench role. Despite the third-year power forward leading the Timberwolves with 16.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game, his 26.4 minutes per game has baffled plenty. As one NBA scout told ESPN's Chris Broussard, "You have to be on crystal meth not to give Love more minutes on that team. It makes no sense.''

4. See the difference in how triangle offenses are run - What's impressed me the most about the Lakers' 7-0 start entails how smoothly they've run their offense. The Lakers' league-leading 114 points per game, league-leading 45% rate from three-point range and league-leading 13.6 per contest reveals a well-oiled machine. The usual consistency from Pau Gasol (24.1 points and 10 rebounds) and Lamar Odom (15.9 points and 11.1 rebounds) showcases their dominance in the post. All these parts, however, reveal how well the Lakers have run the triangle, thanks to constant ball movement, sharp cutting and effective spacing.

"When the triangle works the way it's supposed to, it's beautiful," Lakers forward Luke Walton said during training camp. "It's fun to watch. It's fun to play. When you've got guys working on the same play and making the right reads, it's great. It's the way basketball is meant to be played."

Ever since Rambis' arrival last season with the Timberwolves, he's instituted the triangle system, but it's not run in its entirety simply because of the learning curve. He told the Star Tribune that he doesn't need to tinker with the system other than just allowing time for the team to fully learn it.

"There's nothing that we're doing that's complicated," Rambis told the Star Tribune. "This is all stuff that they know. Young players just have trouble being consistent."

If nothing else, tonight's game should serve as a visual reminder why the Lakers' offense has functioned so well. Having experienced and talented players makes a heck of a difference.

5. The Lakers won't be tested on defense. For all well the Lakers have played, the defense could still be sharpened. But that's going to be a problem against Minnesota. No player shoots above 50%. And for all the concern about how Bynum's absence exposes the Lakers' interior defense, they can be comforted by the fact that T-Wolves center Darko Milicic only shoots 23.1% from the field, considering his attempts mostly come from, you know, inside the paint.

--Mark Medina

Twitter.com/latmedina

E-mail the Lakers blog at mgmedin@gmail.com

Photo: Kobe Bryant takes the ball past Minnesota's Wesley Johnson during an exhibition game in Europe. Credit: Dylan Martinez, Reuters.


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