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Wolves need to put themselves in the corner against the Lakers

By Zach Harper | NBA writer
The Timberwolves could really use this guy to spread the floor. (Getty Images)

The Minnesota Timberwolves are visiting the Los Angeles Lakers in the Staples Center tonight, Rick Adelman's team is trying to do something this franchise has had a lot of trouble doing: beating the Lakers.

The last time the Wolves beat the Lakers, it was a double-overtime home victory on March 6, 2007. They've lost 20 in a row against the Lakers. The last time they beat the Lakers in Los Angeles, it was Dec. 2, 2005, when Kevin Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak and Michael Olowokandi were still on the prowl for Minnesota. The Wolves have lost 12 straight in Los Angeles.

Without Kevin Love, Andrei Kirilenko and Chase Budinger in the lineup tonight, it looks like the Wolves will be headed for their 13th straight loss in L.A. and their 21st straight to the Lakers overall. To win this game tonight, the Wolves will have to do something they don't try very often and don't do very often: make 3-point shots and take them from the corner.

The Wolves are shooting 29.9 percent from 3-point range on the season, which is the worst 3-point shooting season in history when you factor in they're taking 17.9 attempts per game. The previous worst for a team taking at least 13 3-pointers per game was last year's Charlotte Bobcats. They attempted 13.5 per game and made just 29.5 percent.

The confusing thing about the Wolves' outside shooting isn't how many they take despite not being able to make them, but how many they attempt from the corner, which is thought to be the most efficient 3-point shot in basketball.

(chart by Zach Harper with info from NBA.com/stats)

The Wolves attempt just 3.8 corner 3-pointers per game, the fourth fewest in the NBA. They make 37.1 percent of those corner 3-point attempts, which is 18th in the NBA. They aren't good from the corner, but they aren't historically bad like their 3-point shooting suggests. Considering it's their best 3-point shot on the floor, it's hard to believe they take so few per game.

The Lakers' defense could provide an opportunity to capitalize by attempting more corner 3-point shots than normal, too.

(chart by Zach Harper with info from NBA.com/stats)

This Lakers team does not defend the corner 3-point shot well in terms of percentage allowed. They allow the 10th-highest percentage from the corner at 40.6 percent. The Wolves don't have the firepower to really stand toe-to-toe with Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard tonight because of Minnesota's injuries. This means they have to take advantage of any opportunity they get in the Staples Center.

There are a couple of ways for the Wolves to find a way to do this. These solutions sound simple, but sometimes that's what you need when you're so bad at accomplishing a certain goal. And they're pretty awful at getting corner 3-point shots.

The first idea is getting the ball into the middle of the floor. J.J. Barea and Ricky Rubio will run a lot of pick-and-roll in this game, and they have to find a way to get the ball to the free-throw line area when they do. The Lakers are usually halfway into their help rotations when this happens against them, but they're not alert enough to close hard on the shooters.

If the Wolves have guys like Derrick Williams, Luke Ridnour and Mickael Gelabale flashing to the corner when the ball gets to the middle of the defense, they should have plenty of time to get good attempts from the corner.

The second idea is they have to float away from the help defender on the weak side. Rubio is one of the best crosscourt passers in the NBA, so if the Wolves run a side pick-and-roll then the weak side shooters should have plenty of time to get off a good attempt. Metta World Peace, Jodie Meeks and Bryant can be slow to close on those weak side shooters. It's something they have to find within the flow of their offense in order to keep the paint open against Dwight Howard.

If the Wolves can find a way to do something they haven't been able to do consistently all season (find corner 3-point attempts and just make 3-point shots in general), then they'll be able to do something they haven't done in nearly a decade.

They'll be able to win a game against the Lakers in the Staples Center.

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