Feb 28, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers point guard Steve Nash (10) guards Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) during the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Game Eight Preview: Lakers (3-4) vs. Timberwolves (4-2)

What a tangled web the Lakers are weaving. Their wins feature a pair of impressive victories (Clippers, Rockets) while their losses feature many a blowout and embarrassing loss (Warriors, Mavs, Pelicans). The squad feeds off emotion and has a hard time creating energy, evidenced by three of their four losses coming on the road.

 

After the huge victory over the Rockets in Houston, the Lakers were thoroughly manhandled by the Pelicans. Pau Gasol was made to look a scrub by Anthony Davis, which wasn’t entirely surprising considering the condition of each player (Gasol still battling illness, Davis still having insane athleticism). But with a return home and a day and a half of rest, the Lakers will look to not only right the ship, but continue their impressive streak of 22 consecutive wins over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

 

Minnesota sports a very solid lineup. After nearly matching the Lakers in injury woes last year, the Wolves reloaded by bringing in Kevin Martin, Corey Brewer, and resigning Nikola Pekovic. Both Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio have remained healthy, and if they do remain as such, this is likely a playoff team. But as will be the case for much of this season, the Lakers advantage lies within their bench production. L.A. currently leads the league with 52.9 points nightly off the bench, while the T’Wolves are last in the league with 20.3 points of bench production a night.

 

In the young season, Love has certainly made his case for MVP, averaging 27.2 points and 14.7 rebounds, ranking him 2nd and 1st in the league, respectively. Paired with Rubio’s 7.8 assists and league-leading 3.3 steals a game and Minnesota has themselves a playoff-caliber team, and a team that will give the Lakers lots of trouble tonight.

 

X-FACTOR OF THE NIGHT

Pau Gasol. Gasol looked impressive to start the season, but had a putrid of a week last week, shooting 8 for 31 on the road trip and scoring just 21 points over the three games. Hopefully, the illness that clearly slowed him down has been cured and he’s finally back to 100%, as he’ll need all his talent and energy battling Love and Pek tonight.

 

NUMBER OF THE NIGHT

10.4. The number of 3s the Lakers make, on average, each game. We know the Lakers live by the three and die by the three, but this number will be crucial for a bench unit that will have a big opportunity to make a footprint on this game.

 

PREDICTION

 

For the first time this season, I’m confident in the Lakers. This is a game they could win, given they are at home and have a huge advantage on the bench. Consider it the kiss of death. 104-96 Lakers.

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