The Minnesota Timberwolves went into Sunday night's showdown against the Los Angeles Lakers believing the time was ripe to shatter a 15-game losing streak against the former denizens of their fair city. The setup seemed perfect. Los Angeles was on the back end of a back-to-back while the Wolves spent Saturday resting up. Minnesota had won five of seven to climb within one game of .500, while L.A. had dropped four of five. The Wolves hadn't beaten L.A. since Kevin Garnett was still around, but that was supposed to change on Sunday.
It didn't. The crowd at the Target Center was treated to an outstanding game, but in the end it was just another loss to the franchise that abandoned the Twin Cities and headed for the Pacific in 1960. (Taking with them a nickname that no longer made any sense. Oh well.)
A key sequence in the third quarter on Sunday was telling: Kobe Bryant had heated up from the field, as he is wont to do, and the Lakers moved out to an 18-point lead. After a Michael Beasley 3 cut the lead to 14 and threatened to swing the momentum, Bryant spotted up unguarded at the 3-point line, took a pass from Derek Fisher and seemingly killed Minnesota's run with a flick of the wrist.
But these aren't the same sad-sack Timberwolves. With Ricky Rubio directing the show, Minnesota streaked back into the game and led in the fourth quarter before faltering down the stretch. There were behind-the-back passes from Rubio, spot up 3s from Beasley, Kevin Love crashing the offensive glass, Anthony Randolph dunking off lob passes. Even though the Wolves ended up losing, there were some positives. For example, Minnesota outscored the Lakers 16-0 on fast-break points and 32-10 on second-chance opportunities. Sunday's game gave fans a glimpse of where the Timberwolves might be headed, but also demonstrated why they still have plenty of work to do to get there.