Here are 10 things about the matchup you should – or at least could – know:
1) The Lakers have won 17 straight games against Minnesota, the longest active winning streak for any team over any other in the NBA, but the Wolves have been playing good basketball of late, enough to put them into the eighth spot in an ultra-competitive Western Conference.
2) Kobe Bryant is just 12 points away from 29,000 for his career. Only four players, of course, have scored 29,000 in the history of the game (Wilt, MJ, Malone and Kareem), and Kobe will be the youngest to get there.
3) Injury notes: JJ Barea is listed as doubtful for the game after spraining his left ankle against Portland. Nikola Pekovic is questionable, as he’s missed last two games due to a sore right foot, but he has hinted at returning on Friday. If not, Darko Milicic will start at center.
4) Minnesota has won five straight home games and a season-high tying three straight overall; the home streak is the team’s longest since Dec. 26, 2006 – Jan. 7, 2007, when Kevin Garnett was still running the show. You have to go back to 2004 for a 6-game winning streak at home. To put that in perspective, however, the Lakers are currently on an 8–game home winning streak.
5) Kevin Love missed LAL’s 104-85 beat down in Los Angeles as a last second scratch due to the flu. He’s one of two players that has more double-doubles than Bynum, and also bests Bynum, just a bit, on the glass, ranking 2nd to Dwight Howard with 13.8. Bynum is 3rd with 12.7.
6 and 7) Yet Bynum and Gasol dominate Love in two other key big man categories: blocks and field goal percentage. Bynum ranks 5th in the NBA in blocks (2.17), and Gasol 19th (1.36). Love has blocked only 17 shots all season (0.46 per game), and is not a defensive deterrent for opponents going to the rim. Meanwhile, Bynum ranks 3rd in the NBA in field goal percentage at 56.1 percent, and Gasol’s at 50.6 percent, while Love isn’t close, making only 44.8 percent (outside of top 50) as he shoots many more perimeter jump shots. Love does shoot pretty well from three-point range at 36.8 percent.
8) The Lakers managed only three bench points in the second half of Wednesday’s game at Washington, after an 18-point first half, and seven total points at Detroit.
9) No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams is playing much better for Minnesota of late, averaging 13.6 points and 6.9 boards while shooting 50% over the last seven games.
10) Last time the Lakers were in Minny, Kobe (35), Gasol (28 on 11-of-15 FG’s) and Bynum (21) combined for 84 of L.A.’s 106 points. LAL held the Wolves to 38.5 percent from the field and won despite being out-boarded 52-41 (in part due to the field goal discrepancy) and having 12 turnovers to Minnesota’s four.