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Preview: Lakers at Minnesota Timberwolves

March 27, 2013|By Eric Pincus
  • Ricky Rubio keeps his balance as he drives past Eric Bledsoe during the Clippers' matchup with the Timberwolves.
Ricky Rubio keeps his balance as he drives past Eric Bledsoe during the Clippers'… (Jim Mone / Associated Press )

The Lakers (36-35), coming off two straight losses, are suddenly at risk again.  The playoffs are no longer a given, but a win in Minnesota against the Timberwolves (25-44) would be a step in the right direction.

The Wolves have been injured all season.  Kevin Love has made just 18 appearances.  Chase Budinger has just rejoined the team.  Brandon Roy got through just five games.  Only Luke Ridnour has played in all 69 games.

With Metta World Peace going down with injury (knee), Pau Gasol trying to get back in shape and the Lakers seriously struggling -- the Wolves have a real opportunity to play spoiler.

Key matchup

J.J. Barea vs. the Lakers -- at least that always seems to be the case.  Barea gave the Wolves a burst in Minnesota in February with 14 points.  At Staples Center later in the month, he led the Timberwolves with 20.

The Lakers have had trouble containing Barea dating back to the Dallas Mavericks' run to the title in 2011.

Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Kobe Bryant or Jodie Meeks -- someone will need to slow Barea down.

Offensively, the Lakers need Nash to help lead a more-balanced attack against the Wolves.  The team has been too reliant on Bryant in recent losses.

X-factor

Andrei Kirilenko has had success in the past guarding Kobe Bryant.  He's a troublesome team defender who can match up against almost any position.

With World Peace headed back to Los Angeles to get his knee examined, the Lakers will need someone to step in at small forward.

That might be Bryant, with Meeks starting at shooting guard, or Earl Clark.  Devin Ebanks hasn't played much all season -- it's hard to see Coach Mike D'Antoni experimenting.

Outlook

The Lakers need to win, and win now.  The postseason is in jeopardy -- a loss to the Wolves could be the difference between eighth and ninth place.

ALSO:

Metta World Peace out with torn meniscus in left knee

Reintegrating Pau Gasol has made the Lakers vulnerable

With luxury taxes a big concern, could Metta World Peace opt out?

Email Eric Pincus at eric.pincus@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @EricPincus.

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