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News » Timberwolves-Lakers Preview 2009-12-10

Timberwolves-Lakers Preview 2009-12-10

Timberwolves-Lakers Preview 2009-12-10The Minnesota Timberwolves hired Kurt Rambis as their coach hoping he could build a winning tradition similar to the one he enjoyed with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Rambis has struggled to get Minnesota turned around, and his old team looks as good as ever.

In his first game coaching against the Lakers, Rambis tries to somehow help the lowly Timberwolves stop Los Angeles from winning 11 straight games for the first time in more than five years Friday night at Staples Center.

Rambis, a Californian who spent nine seasons with the Lakers during his 14-year playing career, won four titles with the franchise as a rugged forward - not to mention a fan favorite - and two more as an assistant. He was on Phil Jackson's coaching staff last season during the Lakers' run to a title and will receive that championship ring prior to the start of this game.

Long considered a possible heir apparent to Jackson in Los Angeles (17-3), Rambis filled in on several occasions while the coach was out with medical issues. He also served as the coach in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season, going 24-13.

"I left an incredible job in Los Angeles," Rambis said upon being named Timberwolves coach. "That team has a chance to win several NBA championships, but when an opportunity like this comes along, to build a team like I envision and playing a style of ball I would like to teach, to work with quality individuals we already have, it could not be passed up."

Rambis has a strong reputation of developing young players, and Minnesota decided to hire him in hopes of transforming a struggling franchise into a contender. This hasn't been easy.

With a core of Jonny Flynn, Al Jefferson and Kevin Love - all 24 years old or younger - the Timberwolves (3-19) own the second-worst record in the NBA. They're at the bottom of the Western Conference while Los Angeles is at the top, entering this matchup looking to win 11 in a row for the first time since March 13-April 2, 2004.

While Los Angeles is riding its second 10-game winning streak in three years, Minnesota endured a 15-game slide earlier this season and is coming off a particularly tough loss.

Minnesota, which hasn't been to the playoffs since losing to the Lakers in the 2004 conference finals, blew a 16-point lead in the second half Wednesday and lost 97-96 to New Orleans.

With the Hornets down one with 3.9 seconds to go, Chris Paul threw an inbounds pass to David West. As Flynn turned his head, Paul raced past the Wolves rookie to the basket and took a backdoor feed from West, hitting the winning layup with 1.4 seconds left.

"All these situations that we go through in games are all learning experiences for (Flynn)," Rambis said. "I've been involved with so many young players that go through this, and a lot of your lessons are painful. As long as a player is receptive and as long as a player continues to work hard, which he has, he's going to learn from these mistakes. They hurt and sting, but you learn from them."

While Minnesota folded in the fourth quarter Wednesday, the Lakers held Utah to six points on 2-for-18 shooting in the final period en route to a 101-77 victory.

"I guess there's a little bit of credit to ourselves, but they were really out of whack," said Pau Gasol, who had 19 points and 12 rebounds. "They didn't get the shots they got in the first three quarters. We got the momentum and just started putting plays together."

Most of the victories during this run have been easy, with the Lakers winning by an average of 16.2 points. The only game that was decided by less than 10 points was last Friday's 108-107 win over Miami on Kobe Bryant's self-acknowledged lucky 3-pointer that banked in at the buzzer.

Bryant scored 27 points Wednesday and is averaging 30.7 in his last nine games against Minnesota.

The Lakers have reeled off eight consecutive victories over the Timberwolves since a 117-107 double-overtime loss March 6, 2007. They've also won the last six meetings at Staples Center.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: December 10, 2009


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