MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Last season, the Los Angeles Lakers and
Minnesota Timberwolves met in the Western Conference finals. As
this season approaches its midway point, either team would
consider itself lucky to make it that far.
The struggling Timberwolves look to win for just the second time
in their last seven games Monday when they host the Lakers, who
have lost two of three.
Minnesota returned virtually everyone from last season's 58-24
squad, but have not found similar success. After improving to
15-8 with a victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on December
17, Minnesota has lost seven of nine to drop into seventh place
in the Western Conference.
Despite his team's struggles, reigning MVP Kevin Garnett has
been outstanding, averaging 28.3 points and 18.5 rebounds in his
last four games.
Garnett collected 25 points and 19 rebounds Saturday, but he
missed two shots in the final five seconds in a 117-114 loss to
the Washington Wizards.
Starting point guard Sam Cassell did not play due to a strained
right hamstring and his status is questionable for Monday's
The Lakers are one-half game ahead of the Timberwolves in the
West after snapping a two-game losing streak with a 111-104
victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday. Kobe Bryant led Los
Angeles with 27 points and 10 assists.
It was Bryant's ninth double-figure assist performance of the
season. He had just six in 2003-04.
It will be the first meeting between the teams since the Lakers
topped the Wolves in six games to advance to the NBA Finals.
Minnesota took three of four in the regular season to win the
season series for the first time in team history.