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Los Angeles Clippers (35-23) vs Minnesota Timberwolves (25-34)
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Last game: Minnesota: L, 113-107 vs Denver, Los Angeles Clippers: W, 100-98 vs Oklahoma City
File this under “injury to insult:” Kevin Love went down in the first quarter of last night’s game with a concussion. Love took an elbow from Denver’s JaVale McGee, which may have ended his season. Despite a huge rally from the Wolves, Denver put Minnesota away late, moving into 7th place in the Western Conference.
The Clippers won a statement game against the Thunder last night. Chris Paul took over the game in the second half, including a layup in the final seconds that clinched the game for LA.
The Key Questions
#1. Without Kevin Love for the next few games, can the Timberwolves compete with the Clippers?
It’s hard to imagine that they can. Perhaps the Clippers will have a lapse in concentration the night after a big win, but it seems more likely that Minnesota will be taken out of the game early.
Derrick Williams will likely get the start opposite Blake Griffin. With Williams starting, look for Michael Beasley to get more time coming off the bench, and for him to be more of a focal point offensively. This could be a good thing: Beasley dropped 27 on the Clippers last time these teams met, shooting 11-15 from the field.
#2. Can Minnesota’s role players continue to step up?
Last night after Love went down, several Timberwolves players stepped up and made the game respectable. They will need to continue to play well to have a chance tonight. If the Wolves can get another performance like the one they got from Anthony Randolph last night (28 points on 11-16 shooting), they could make this a game (unlikely).
The Key Matchups
How much will DeAndre Jordan affect Nikola Pekovic’s production? Jordan is so long, he is a tough shot-blocking matchup for every post in the NBA. He isn’t, however, great at helping out on defense.
The mere thought of JJ Barea trying to guard Chris Paul makes my teeth grind. Paul has been playing well lately (21 points, 10 assists in his last five games), and he is a great defender, leading the NBA in steals. He even has a size advantage on Barea. This could be ugly.
The last time these teams played, Minnesota won by 12. At that time, the Wolves were streaking, Love and Rubio were both healthy and active, and everything was a little brighter in Minneapolis. Since then, everything has gone wrong for the Wolves, and things have started going right for the Clippers, who are 8-2 in their last 10. Unfortunately, it’s hard to imagine the Clippers slipping tonight.
Game starts at 7 pm on Fox Sports North