There were a couple things going into Monday night’s game against the Clippers that were causes for concern. First off, the Timberwolves were on the second night of a back-to-back. Secondly, despite missing Blake Griffin, Jamal Crawford and JJ Redick, the Clippers were still a better team.
Oddly, neither team could shoot from within the arc with both in the thirties in the first. Yet, both managed to shoot over fifty percent from three. The Clippers got a lot of good looks because of their proficiency in getting open off of screens, but carried a modest four point lead. To make this more shocking, Nikola Pekovic only played seven minutes before his ankle started bothering him, and Gorgui Dieng in foul trouble.
This left Kevin Love to play a lot of center against the large human being known as DeAndre Jordan. In the first quarter alone Jordan had 12 rebounds while Love had nine of the Timberwolves’ 15. Really, the first half was a fighter’s duel with eight ties, 13 lead changes and neither team leading by more than six.
Love finished the first with 16 points and nine rebounds and Kevin Martin chipped in 12. For the Clippers, Chris Paul led the way with 14 points and five assists with Matt Barnes adding 12 of his own.
As Rick Adelman pointed out after the game, the Timberwolves played the Clippers closely in the third, but suddenly found themselves in a track meet with the visitors running three-on-two breaks more often than not. Another huge thing the Clippers did to take the Timberwolves out of the game was not let them get to the line. Minnnesota had a total of one free throw attempt in the second and third quarters combined. For a team that relies on getting to the line so much, this was a problem since they suddenly had to try to become a jump-shooting team.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are not a jump-shooting team.
Los Angeles managed to push the lead out to as much as 22 and led 88-66 after three quarters. All seemed lost at this point, but the much maligned bench unit managed to push back. Highlighted by Shabazz Muhammad’s 11-points in the quarter, they managed to rally to within 10 points, but the game was just out of reach.
Now the Timberwolves will face the Grizzlies, a team they struggle to matchup with, on a two-game losing streak and possibly missing their second best player. That should make Wednesday interesting.
Time for notes!
– Shabazz Muhammmad notched his sixth assist tonight. That would be his sixth assist in 35 games. This is also the same player who had more turnovers than assists at UCLA, so he still has some work to do in becoming a more complete player. Adelman was asked about his minutes, and the bench play in general, he expressed concerns about the consistency that he had not been seeing. Really, he never knows what to expect from his bench, Shabazz included. He used Sunday’s game in Brooklyn as an example where they went in and just let the game go and came back to tonight where they got them back in the game. Let’s remember this before we call for Adelman’s job next time, k?
– Love made Timberwolves history tonight when he made his 466th free throw of the season to pass Tom Gugliotta for the most made free throws in a single season in team history. Also, Love had his 24th game of 20p/15r/5a, the most in the NBA.
– Adelman said after the game that he had no idea Pekovic wouldn’t be able to play the game. As someone who deals with ankle issues, I know they can be finicky. You can be just fine and have one wrong move and be hobbling all over again.