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The Minnesota Timberwolves, who are currently a game-and-a-half out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, received devastating news Saturday afternoon when it was announced rookie point guard Ricky Rubio would miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL.
The absence of Rubio will only make the Wolves’ journey to make the postseason for the first time since 2004 all the more arduous.
But if the Lakers and Wolves were to ever to play a playoff series with a healthy Rubio in uniform, fans would likely be treated to a hotly contested showdown. The Lakers have won all three matchups this season, including a narrow win Friday with Kevin Love sidelined with back spasms. But outside of the center and shooting guard positions, the Wolves have a stark advantage over the Lakers at every other position, including bench production and coaching. The Wolves average six, three and 14 more points per game at small forward, point guard and the bench, respectively.
Also, with all due respect to Kobe Bryant, the Wolves would arguably have the privilege of having the best overall player in the series in Kevin Love, who is having an MVP type season, averaging 25 points and 13 rebounds.
Would the Lakers ultimately win a seven-game series against the Wolves? Probably. But it would in no way be an easy go for Kobe and Co.
If fully healthy, the Wolves have the potential to be a pain in the side for more teams than just the Lakers. Let’s pretend Minnesota ends up claiming the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs (I know, without Rubio, it’s highly unlikely). This would set up a likely first-round matchup with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was only two years ago the Thunder were the young, wet-behind-the-ears eighth seed facing the then-defending champion Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.
Maybe the Wolves could end up playing the role of the Thunder this season if they take on Oklahoma City in the first round this spring.