LA Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Lakers

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LA Lakers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves: Postgame Grades and Analysis for Lakers
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves (24-24) defeated the Los Angeles Lakers (16-32) 109-99 on Tuesday night behind 31 points and 17 rebounds from Kevin Love. 

The Lakers have lost seven games in a row dating back to Jan. 20 and are now co-occupants of the Western Conference cellar with the Sacramento Kings and Utah Jazz.

Mike D'Antoni's squad found itself in a near-double-digit hole throughout, no thanks to another lousy defensive showing, one that saw the Timberwolves score 68 first-half points. Minnesota was then able to coast in the second half, scoring 21 and 20 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively.

The Lakers shot 42 percent from the field and excelled from beyond the arc, knocking down 48 percent of their threes, but purple and gold starters accounted for just 27 points, fewer than the individual totals of both Love and Kevin Martin.

 

Key Players

Steve Nash, Point Guard

Hampered by back and hamstring injuries throughout the first half of the season, Steve Nash was cleared to make his seventh appearance (and start) of the 2013-14 campaign against the Timberwolves. 

Nash looked sharp from the opening tip, but it wasn't the numbers he put up that impressed.

Instead, it was the way the soon-to-be 40-year-old kept the Lakers' offense flowing, as he set up teammates for clean shots after effectively driving the lane and penetrating the interior of the Timberwolves' defense.

Unfortunately, Nash couldn't do anything to remedy L.A.'s breathtakingly bad defense, although that shouldn't come as a major shock.

In 25 productive and encouraging minutes, Nash totaled seven points (3-of-6 shooting), nine assists, a steal and two turnovers. His pull-up jumper and three-point stroke looked surprisingly strong.

"Came through it great," D'Antoni said of Nash's health after the loss, according to Bleacher Report's Kevin Ding.

The Lakers can only hope for similar production in comparable minutes moving forward. 

Grade: B+

 

Nick Young, Sixth Man

You have to give Nick Young credit: His shot wasn't falling, so he made a concerted effort to get to the free-throw line, and in the process he helped cut the Timberwolves' lead to single digits in both the third and fourth quarters. 

Despite making just four of his 12 field-goal attempts (3-of-7 from three), Young was able to rack up 13 points at the charity stripe and compile a team-high 24 points on the evening. 

The bad news is that Swaggy P turned the ball over a team-high four times, but his ability to come up with timely buckets can't be overlooked on a night when the Lakers were in need of reliable perimeter scorers. 

Grade: B-

 

Steve Blake, Shooting Guard

Like Nash, Blake made his return to the lineup on Tuesday.

Out since Dec. 10 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Blake grabbed the start at shooting guard for a Lakers backcourt in desperate need of a spark on both ends of the floor. 

Unfortunately, Blake was unable to provide that spark, due in part to early foul trouble. In 32 minutes, Blake failed to score a point, but he did dish out six assists, haul in five rebounds and record a team-high three steals. 

But even when Blake was on the court, his defensive struggles overshadowed very minor offensive successes, evidenced by Kevin Martin's 14-point first-quarter explosion, although Young deserves some of the blame there as well.

I'm willing to give Blake the benefit of the doubt for the time being (especially after suffering such an odd injury), but the Lakers will need a more complete showing on both ends from Blake if they want to snap this losing streak any time soon.

Grade: C-

 

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Jodie Meeks, Guard/Forward

Starting at the 3 with Blake back in the lineup, Jodie Meeks assumed the positional role typically reserved for Wesley Johnson.

But that didn't last long, because these are the 2013-14 Lakers and they can't catch a break. 

One minute and 24 seconds into the first quarter, Meeks turned his ankle after landing awkwardly on a corner three-point attempt, and that was it for L.A.'s third-leading scorer and second-best three-point shooter.

The Lakers can ill afford another long-term injury to a key backcourt cog, so Purple and Gold Nation will need to hope this is a day-to-day and not a week-to-week ailment. 

Grade: Incomplete

 

Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

Ryan Kelly, Power Forward

Ryan Kelly was presented with the unenviable task of being the first Lakers player to defend the league's fourth-leading scorer and second-leading rebounder, Kevin Love. I'll let you guess how that went.

It would have been bad enough had Kelly played a half-decent game. But he was incapable of matching a sliver of Love's performance in the scoring column, mustering six points on 2-of-11 shooting while the All-Star starter waltzed his way to another double-double. 

Grade: F

 

Robert Sacre, Center

With Pau Gasol expected to miss two weeks with a strained right groin, according to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News, Sacre was Mike D'Antoni's center du jour on Tuesday. 

In his eighth starting gig, Sacre was fortunate enough to avoid a showdown with the monstrous Nikola Pekovic (sidelined with right ankle bursitis), and that was good news, especially early. The former Gonzaga Bulldog knocked down his first three shots from the field—all jump shots—and looked good as he drew Ronny Turiaf away from the basket on the offensive end. 

However, due to the Lakers' lack of a true back-to-the-basket contributor, L.A. mustered just 30 points in the paint, including a paltry 10 in the first half.

Defensively, Sacre's effort can be classified as inconsistent, but it was a positive development to see the backup big shooting jumpers and attacking the rim without hesitation.

Sacre fell one point shy of tying a career-high and finished with 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (4-of-4 from the free-throw line) while pulling down four rebounds and blocking a shot. 

Grade: B+

 

Bench

Relegated to reserve duty with Nash back, Kendall Marshall logged just 21 minutes off the bench, posting five points and three assists in the process. As a result, Marshall's passing and distributive tendencies weren't on display, which made it tough to stomach a subpar defensive showing.

The same is applicable to the performance of Chris Kaman, who was called upon to play a larger role off the pine due to injuries to the Lakers frontcourt. 

Kaman was good for nine points (2-of-6 shooting) and three rebounds, but the Timberwolves showed no respect for his defensive capabilities, which, sadly, is a sentiment that applied to Minnesota's take on every Lakers defender.

And then there was Jordan Hill, who logged all of three minutes and 38 seconds of playing time before checking out for the night. 

On the flip side, Johnson brought some much-needed energy to the tune of 15 points and nine rebounds while Manny Harris (offensively) sustained the second unit by scoring 19 points on an impressive 8-of-11 shooting, including a team-high 13 in the first half.

Harris added eight rebounds and an assist to his final line, too. 

Those two deserve high marks, but the rest of the bench doesn't. 

Grade: B+

 

What's Up Next?

The Lakers' road trip stops in Cleveland for a showdown with the Cavaliers on Wednesday before the three-game swing wraps up against the sputtering Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. 

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