Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Lakers

Updated: May 21, 2004, 3:14 PM ET
By Brian James | Special to ESPN Insider
Timberwolves' plus-minus breakdown | Lakers' plus-minus breakdown

Brian James, a former assistant coach with the Pistons, Raptors and Wizards, spent the 2003-'04 season scouting for the SuperSonics. Insider tapped his NBA expertise to break down each playoff series.

When the Los Angeles Lakers lost the first two games of their playoff series against San Antonio, coach Phil Jackson's motivational speech got the team re-focused and was the turning point in the series. Jackson went down the entire roster and reminded each player, emphatically, that this might be the swan song for the majority of the team, including the coaching staff.

L.A. came out possessed from that point on and won four straight games.

Minnesota also has been on an emotional, physical and mental whirlwind in the playoffs. Wednesday night's Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings was in doubt until the final horn. Does anyone now question which player is the MVP of the NBA? Kevin Garnett's passion, emotion and leadership carried the Timberwolves, and he was simply unstoppable in the fourth quarter.

The 48-hour turnaround will test Minnesota's resolve as they open against the Lakers, because it will limit how much rest the starters will get before what will be a very physical series. How can Sam Cassell's back and hip get better in such a short time? Emotionally, how much do they have left in the tank?

When we break down the Western Conference Finals, we need to look at some of the things the playoff crucible has revealed about these teams.


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