Will Andrew Bynum and the Lakers have better focus Friday against Minnesota? (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles…)
Some things to keep an eye on when the Lakers (23-15) visit the Minnesota Timberwolves (21-19) Friday at Minneapolis' Target Center.
1. Will the Lakers play with effort? It's downright offensive that the public has to wonder whether the Lakers will do that, especially after losing two consecutive games to Eastern Conference dwellers the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards. But it's a fair question to ask. It remains to be seen whether this will spark the Lakers into fuller intensity or lead to more divisions within the team over Mike Brown.
The Lakers' start will provide a glimpse into their mind-set, but it won't fully answer whether a full effort's in store. They started out with double-digit leads against Detroit and Washington, only to see them plummet because of poor transition defense, disorganized offense and sub-par effort.
2. Will Kobe Bryant alter his shot selection? His 17-of-57 mark from the field in the last two games appeared so egregious that even Brown took him to task for it. Don't get hung up on the shot total. What matters more is the context of when these shots happen. Against Detroit, many of Bryant's shots were inappropriate because Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum had taken advantage of the Pistons' flimsy frontline. His first-half effort against Washington appeared more tempered, but then trigger-happy tendencies in the second half correlated to the Lakers collapsing.
Bryant still needs to maintain his aggessiveness, but he needs to better parlay his scoring mentality in directing the offense than simply looking to shoot all the time. It'll make the offense flow much better and it will make it easier for Bryant to find easier looks.
3. Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum will have a challenge with Kevin Love. His absence because of a flu proved to be a huge reason why the Lakers coasted to a 104-85 victory last week over Minnesota. The Lakers won't have such a luxury this time. Since Love's return, he has averaged 33.3 points on 47.8% shooting, 13.6 rebounds and three assists. In other words, Bynum's admission that he didn't play hard against Washington can't happen again. Gasol and Bynum also won't have easier looks like they did in the past two games. So part of the Lakers' onus on establishing their inside game points to Bynum and Gasol too.
4. The Lakers need to dare Ricky Rubio to shoot. The Purple and Gold usually struggle defending quick, young point guards. So say something we don't know. Well, here's this: The Lakers have actually fared well in limiting Rubio, holding him to four points on 14.3% shooting and 8.5 assists. It's possible the Lakers can continue that, considering Rubio has experienced a drop-off in the last 10 games. Consider how that stretch compares to his season average in points per game (9.9, 10.5), shooting percentage (30.3%, 35.5%) and assists (6.7, 8.2).
5. Will Mike Brown make any rotation changes? For the first time in about a month, Josh McRoberts played beyond garbage time. Brown said he hopes to keep his bench the same with Steve Blake, Andrew Goudelock, Matt Barnes and Troy Murphy playing alongside Bynum. But with the offensive struggles and players privately stewing about his coaching, perhaps Brown might make some adjustments.
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