Czar’s Playoff Preview


Fratello Telestrator


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.

Around the League


Gameday Dish: Clippers vs. Lakers

Whose town is Los Angeles anyway? The Lakers’ with their 16 NBA titles and handfuls of players in the Hall of Fame? Or the Clippers’ – the new guys in town (1984 to be exact) with zero division titles and never a sniff of the finals?

Well, in seasons past this wasn’t even debatable. But in hoops, like everything else on this basketball-shaped planet, things change. LA is not Laker Town anymore – in 2013 it belongs to the Clips.

The 38-17 Clippers lead the Pacific Division by 6.5 games over second place Golden State and are 12 games ahead of Kobe & crew. In fact, with a win tonight coach Vinny del Negro’s squad can take the four-game season series from their Staples Center rivals. The last time the Clippers took the series from the Lakers was in 1992-1993.

The Clippers bested the Lake Show on November 2nd and January 4th by the respective scores of 105-95 and 107-102. 17th-year superstar Bryant had 40 and 38 in the two games, while the Clips’ leader PG Chris Paul dished out 15 and 13 dimes.

Los Angeles Lakers v Los Angeles ClippersCoach Mike D’Antoni’s team is 25-28, but has seemingly righted their ship of late with five wins in their last seven games, six of which were on the road. Their most recent 48 was Tuesday in Phoenix, where Bryant only scored 4 points on 1 for 8 shooting, but dished out a game-high 9 assists in the victory. The much maligned Dwight Howard had 19 points and 18 boards in 41 minutes, and his recent shoulder issues seem to be on the mend.

LAC is operating at full strength with 16th-year combo guard “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups back after missing 49 games due to injury. The Clippers earned their third W in row when they beat the Rockets last night at home. They came out of the gate on fire and put up 46 first quarter points, the most points they’ve scored in a quarter since 1986. Blake Griffin had 20 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in 32 minutes. Best 1-guard in the NBA Chris Paul had 10 points, 11 dimes and 3 steals in 31 minutes.

Tune in tonight at 10:30 PM ET to TNT to watch four of the West’s five All-Star starters (Bryant, Howard, Griffin and Paul) battle for supremacy at Staples.