Game Notes: Lakers vs. TWolves
Wolves devour Lakers, but alarm bells silent for now.
by Matt Ogborn / @mattogborn
Kobe didn’t see much floor time — just 6 minutes when the packed house wandered starstruck out of the O2 Arena in London late on Monday night — but, boy, did the Lakers need him.
Former Staples Center sidekick Kurt Rambis went up against old boss Phil Jackson and his hungry Timberwolves did enough to suggest that they could push for the Playoffs this season.
Don’t get me wrong, the NBA champions didn’t stink the joint out — they just couldn’t compete with the intensity Minnesota brought to the party. Lamar Odom’s stroke doesn’t need fine tuning, nor Derek Fisher, but Ron and Pau were subdued outside of a mixed Tinseltown bench effort.
When misfit Darko Milicic is bossing the boards and sinking 4-5 field goal attempts, you know there’s work to be done on the practice court. One intriguing thing about Darko’s solid stats was the fact it summed up a tenacious team performance.
Whether it was Michael Beasley driving the lane en route to a 21-point game, Martell Webster bringing zip off the bench or rookie Wesley Johnson slipping the Lakers defense, Rambis’ young team stepped up to the plate. Jonny Flynn didn’t even come into the equation and, when he does, who knows what they are capable of.
Shipped out to the cold to make way for LeBron and Chris in Miami, Beasley was a terror. There have been question marks over his attitude. If the former Kansas State standout keeps this up, though, Kevin Love can focus on the fundamentals and leave the highlight reel to the tattooed tyro. Beasley said as much when I posed the question about the Beasley/Love dynamic to him in the post-game presser.
Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver also displayed enough grit and trickery to become part of a fluid rotation. They still remain a touch soft round the basket, something other teams will be keen to capitalize on and Rambis needs to work on as the Lakers were sloppy at times.
Taking a look at the L.A. new boys, former Trail Blazer Steve Blake will prove a decent backup for Fisher. Chatting to him as the Lakers made their way to the coach, Blake reiterated Jackson’s mantra that this is one baby step in a long, old season so the lazy execution isn’t a big problem for now.
Matt Barnes is the curious one when you look at the three-peat seekers. Jackson could have gotten a steal with the journeyman forward, his speed and physical presence giving the Lakers a lift late on when the Timberwolves threatened to make it embarrassing.
So with Big Apple newbie Amar’e and the rusty Knicks eventually pulling through their Milan encounter on Sunday night, London got to see a more competitive tussle.
We learned more about what Kurt has in store, nonetheless it gave the Lakers much needed game time ahead of a tricky Barcelona encounter with Pau the main attraction.
If you want the inside track on the Knicks and Timberwolves in Paris on Wednesday or the Lakers in Barcelona on Thursday follow Matt on Twitter @mattogborn or hold tight for his NBA Europe feature early next week here on the website