Gameday Dish: Wolves vs. Lakers

Minnesota Timberwolves v Phoenix SunsThe Timberwolves have had a rough go of it this season. They sit in 12th place in the Western Conference at 20-34 and are a miserable 3-14 over their last 17 contests.

Life won’t get any easier for the shorthanded Wolves tonight when they face the Lakers. The host of this evening’s 48 have bested the Wolves 20 straight times, the longest active streak in the NBA.

These two sides last met on February 1st in Minnesota with the Lakers prevailing 111-100. Bryant led the way with 17 points, 12 boards and 8 dimes. Five other Lakers scored in double figures, and they battered the Wolves on the glass, 57-40.

Excuses don’t cut it at the pro level, however veteran coach Rick Adelman’s team has been decimated by injuries to key players. 2X All-Star and member of the 2012 USA Gold Medal Olympic team Kevin Love has suited up for only 18 games this season.

Athletic SF Chase Budinger has only competed in 6 contests, and 3X All-Star Brandon Roy a mere 5. Last year’s runner-up for ROY Ricky Rubio has been back for 29 after tearing his ACL last March.

Los Angeles Lakers v Denver NuggetsAnd to make a terrible situation worse, 11th-year starting SF Andrei Kirilenko will be sidelined after straining his left calf in Tuesday’s overtime loss to Phoenix.

At 28-30 and currently in 9th place in the West, the Lakers have had to overcome injuries to Pau Gasol and Steve Nash. But their poor record can mostly be attributed to problems gelling, advanced age and internal strife.

This Laker team with Kobe, Pau, Dwight, Nash, World Peace and Antawn Jamison was expected to make a run at the 2013 title. After all, their starting five has an All-Star at every position and a total of 33 All-Star game appearances between them. But after just 5 games coach Mike Brown was fired and Mike D’Antoni was hired.

Los Angeles has been playing better ball of late going 11-5 in their last 16. However, the Lakers displayed two of their main weaknesses, turnovers and free throw shooting, in Tuesday’s 119-108 loss at Denver. They committed 15 turnovers and shot 14 for 31 from the charity stripe. Howard is shooting a career-worst 48.5% from the line was a painful 3 for 14.

With only 24 games remaining in the regular season, every one is a must-win for LA if they hope to overtake Houston or Utah for a playoff spot. Tune in to TNT at 10:30 PM ET to see if the once Minneapolis Lakers (1947-1960) can continue clawing their way into playoff contention.

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Gameday Dish: Lakers vs. Knicks

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers come to Madison Square Garden tonight for their only Manhattan visit this season.

While the Knicks are unexpectedly soaring, the Lakers are surprisingly sputtering.

A lot of colorful plot lines are swirling around this evening’s 48, but none bigger than the turmoil surrounding the 9-13 Lakers’ shocking start and accompanying sniping.

Coming in a close second is Mike D’Antoni’s return to the Garden, where he coached the Knicks from 2008 until March 14th, 2012 when he resigned after going 18-24 and clashing with Carmelo Anthony.

The embattled Laker coach’s guys suffered their worst loss of this early season on Tuesday night in Cleveland, 100-94, bringing LA to 4-8 since D’Antoni took over the reigns.

This third consecutive loss was especially surprising given that Kobe Bryant scored a season-high 42 points, and Dwight Howard corralled a season-high tying 20 boards to go with 19 points.

Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
However, for the past five games the Lake Show has been without PF Pau Gasol due to tendinitis in his knees.

Superstar PG Steve Nash and his back-up Steve Blake are also injured and out.

The 16-5 host Knicks have the best record in the Eastern Conference and are the only team in the league still undefeated at home.

New York last played on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, where they bested their outer-borough brethren 100-97.

Melo scored a season-high 45 points, and 39-year old 19th-year PG Jason Kidd hit a key tiebreaking 3-pointer with 24 seconds left.

The Knicks have gone 8-2 in their last 10 games and are scoring 102.6 ppg, 5th best in the league. They lead the NBA in 3-point attempts, averaging 29.4 per game.

Tune in to TNT tonight at 8:00 PM ET to watch two of the NBA’s most storied franchises do battle in the Mecca of basketball.

Gameday Dish: Celtics vs. Nets

The five-time defending Atlantic Division Champion Boston Celtics come to Brooklyn tonight to take on the Nets in the first regular season game between these two franchises.

Coach Doc Rivers’ guys beat the Utah Jazz in Boston last night, 98-93, taking their record to 5-3. PG Rajon Rondo left the contest in the third quarter with a right ankle injury and is listed as day-to-day.

Rondo still managed to dish 10 dimes in his 32nd straight game with at least 10 or more assists, and he currently leads the NBA with 12.5 apg.

First-year Celtic and 2007 6th Man of The Year combo-guard Leandro Barbosa stepped in for Rondo and scored 16 points in the victory. Both the Celts’ and Nets’ coaching staffs are still trying to figure out their starting units and how to use the bench players in their rotations.

Boston has a deep, veteran roster including Jeff Green, who’s back from heart surgery and added 16 points in Wednesday’s win. Bench play will have a significant impact on tonight’s results as well.

The 4-2 Brooklyn squad last played on Tuesday night against the Cleveland Cavaliers. They prevailed 114-101 with Joe Johnson and Deron Williams both scoring season highs of 25 and 26 respectively. First-year Net Johnson had his best game yet of the early season and will continue to improve as he adjusts to his new teammates, especially D-Will.

The C’s beat the Nets in all three matchups last season and have won 18 of the last 20 games. However, this Brooklyn incarnation is very different than the 2011-2012 NJ version.

Fifth-year center Brook Lopez is healthy, and he’s averaging 17.5 ppg and 2.3 bpg so far after missing 61 of 66 games last year due to various injuries. Unfortunately, do-everything forward Gerald Wallace will miss his sixth straight game due to a sprained left ankle.

Though it’s early in the season, tonight’s matchup could be a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals. Join me, Marv Albert, Steve Kerr and Craig Sager at 8PM ET on TNT to watch two top teams in the East ignite what is sure to be a long rivalry between these division foes.

Gameday Dish: Knicks vs. Grizzlies

Gasol-Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty ImagesThe New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.

Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.

Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.

Copyright 2012 NBAE - Photo by Dan Lippitt/NBAE via Getty ImagesNew York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.

Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.

Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.

Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.

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