Lakers Howard Day-to-Day As Team Prepares for Timberwolves, Westbrook’s Temper Flares
Just when the Los Angeles Lakers thought they were turning a corner (who knew a three-game win streak could be so exciting?), center Dwight Howard tweaked his injured right shoulder on Wednesday and is now day-to-day. On Friday, the Lakers (20-26) will play the Minnesota Timberwolves (17-25).
On Thursday, the Oklahoma City Thunder (35-11) defeated the Memphis Grizzlies (29-16) 106-89 but the win came with a third-quarter benching of Russell Westbrook.
After Wednesday’s shoulder tweak against the Phoenix Suns, Howard has decided that he won’t go to the doctor or have additional test but will instead take a wait-and-see approach for Friday’s game.
The tweak came in the fourth quarter as Howard went for an offensive rebound but Suns Shannon Brown blocked him. Howard immediately knew he aggravated his shoulder; he then exited the game and didn’t return.
According to Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni via CBS Sports, “My understanding is it hurts, it’ll go away in a couple of days and he can play.”
This is nothing new for Howard this season as he tore his right labrum against the Los Angeles Clippers in early January. He missed a week and when he returned, he re-aggravated it last week vs. Memphis. With surgery, it would knock Howard out for the rest of the season, so they’re trying to keep this option on the shelf.
For the Lakers this continues to be a lost season. They are +1400 to win June’s NBA Championship.
Lakers vs. Timberwolves
On Friday the Lakers will play the Timberwolves and after a successful three-game run at home before Wednesday’s fall, the team hopes to get back on track.
In the Suns’ loss (an eighth straight one on the road), Howard’s exit and his previous lack of play is affecting the team. Fortunately Pau Gasol came off the bench for Howard and added 14 points with five rebounds.
Kobe Bryant is starting to share the ball more and has reached a career-high with 48 assists over the last four games. This needs to continue as Lakers are 3-15 when Bryant has less than five assists; 5-20 when he has 22 or more shot attempts and when taking less than 20 shots, Los Angeles has gone 14-4.
For the Timberwolves, they have lost their last five games with their most recent defeat, 96-90, against the Clippers on Wednesday. It was a disappointing way to welcome back coach Rick Adelman who had missed the last 11 games due to a family matter.
Nikola Pekovic led in scoring with 17 points and 12 rebounds (his seventh double-double for 15 home games) but the Timberwolves fell apart in the game’s final four minutes as the Clippers outscored them 12-4.
They have not played aggressively enough on defense and guard Ricky Rubio said of his team’s recent play, “Teams are playing aggressive and they want to win. We have to come back and don’t step back and try to push them.”
Thunder defeat Grizzlies 106-89
Ushering in a new era without team leader Rudy Gay, the Grizzlies struggled against the Clippers on Thursday night.
Westbrook and Kevin Durant scored a combined 48 points but for one player, it didn’t come easily.
For Westbrook, with his team in control during the third quarter, he began arguing with his teammates after a possession gone wrong and then yelled over to his coach, Scott Benson, on the bench.
These outbursts fueled a 10-point rally by Memphis and after one more score, Westbrook eventually got benched for eight minutes in an effort to calm down. He later described the scenario as a “little miscommunication” that drove his behavior.
Upon Westbrook’s return, the team was ahead by 10 at the start of the fourth quarter and his jumper spurred a flurry of points and 86-69 lead with less than 10 minutes remaining.
For the Thunder, they continue their march to the Championship at +325.