Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Lakers Preview

Greg Smith-USA TODAY Sports

After devastating injury news regarding Kobe Bryant, can the Lakers regroup for their game against the Timberwolves tonight at STAPLES Center?

Showtime: 7:30pm PT

Plot: Six games into his comeback, here we are again--previewing a game without Kobe Bryant.

A MRI on Kobe's left knee on Thursday morning revealed a fracture he suffered most likely after a hyperextension in the third quarter of Tuesday's victory against Memphis. The injury will keep the Mamba on the shelf for around six weeks, which could easily extend longer considering it's right around the All-Star break.

Tonight was supposed to be a "heavyweight battle" for 9th place in the Western Conference. Instead, the Lakers will be scrambling to field some semblance of a coordinated team.

Los Angeles will be without the services of Kobe, of course, but also Steve Nash, Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake. This leaves the starting point guard nod to Xavier Henry, who has been thrust into the role simply because of his ability to handle the ball, drive to the rim and on occasion make creative passes. He is, in no way, a NBA-caliber starting point guard, but unfortunately, he's the best LA has got. The Lakers signed former 2012 first round pick Kendall Marshall late yesterday afternoon, who may be pressed into service just over 24 hours after being plucked from the D-League. Even so, as the only natural point guard on the roster, the Lakers might have no choice but to play him immediately.

The rest of the team will be one in transition, both figuratively and literally. Shooters like Jodie Meeks, Nick Young and Wesley Johnson will have to rely on Pau Gasol and Henry to make open shots for them, while the team will undoubtedly be on the run on any given opportunity with Bryant to take into consideration. Double that, considering tonight's opposition.

The Minnesota Timberwolves come in with a very similarly tepid record (13-13), struggling amidst high expectations in the preseason. The Wolves have floundered under a very difficult early season schedule, already losing 9 games to the league's best squads: Miami, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, Indiana, Houston, the Clippers, Golden State and Denver (twice). All in all, they're one of the league's highest, most efficiently scoring teams and with a very decent defense relative to the extremely fast pace they play at. What's most remarkable about this is that they put up points despite extremely poor shooting: Minny is a terrible three-point shooting team, a bi-product of missing Chase Budinger for the whoe season thus far.

All in all, this might be a terrible combination of timing and mismatch for the Lakers. The Timberwolves are not afraid to run, and whose point guards like Ricky Rubio and eternal Lakers foe Jose Juan Barea can terrorize the LA interior. The Lakers usually struggls to coordinate defensive efforts regardless of who's playing on any given night, but all that may be compounded with yet another different starting line-up. With no point guards other than the 24-hour Laker Marshall, no Kobe and a reeling team, it will take the monstrous "let's win one for the gipper" notion for the Show to pull this one out.

As we all watch in shock that number 24 isn't out there tonight and watch longingly at Kevin Love on the other side of the floor, this might be a frightening vision of who the Lakers will be for the rest of the 2013-2014 season.

--MAMBINO

--Follow this author @TheGreatMambino

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