Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Clippers
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Wolves (16-19) vs Clippers (30-9) — 7:00 PM Target Center
Where to Watch: TNT
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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The Wolves return home after a grueling four-game road trip, but their slate doesn’t get any easier. The Los Angeles Clippers—No. 2 in the Western Conference—visit Target Center tonight. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on TNT and 830 WCCO-AM.
Minnesota’s fourth-straight loss came at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks, 113-98 on Monday. Trailing by as much as 23 during the third quarter, the Wolves made a late run to trim the gap, but their efforts weren’t enough. Darren Collison (23 points), Elton Brand (20) and O.J. Mayo (20) all had good nights scoring for Dallas, while J.J. Barea enjoyed a 21-point outburst off the bench against his old team. Nikola Pekovic also pitched in 20.
The Clippers are simply a solid team. They rank in the top half of the league in every single statistical category—offensive or defensive—except free throw percentage, where they are 26th. They’re fourth in team field goal percentage (.478) and seventh in points per game (102.1), while also sitting first in total steals (.410) and fourth in opponents’ PPG (93.3). They’re effective across the board.
Blake Griffin is leading the Clippers in scoring with 17.7 points per game as well as rebounding with with an average of 8.4 boards. Chris Paul is dishing out 9.7 assists per game, second-best in the league behind Rajon Rondo, along with 16.8 PPG. Then their next two top scorers—Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes—have only started two games combined for the Clippers this year. Crawford is averaging 16.6 per, and Barnes is enjoying a career year with 11.3 PPG.
“They are a really athletic team,” Minnesota forward Derrick Williams said. “They like to push the ball in transition. Don’t turn the ball over, that’s what they feed off of. Lobs to DeAndre [Jordan], Blake [Griffin], a couple other guys. As long as we limit our turnovers and keep playing hard, we’ll be alright.”
Last Time Out: Nov. 28, 2012
The Clippers hosted the Timberwolves on Nov. 28 during Minnesota’s West Coast swing, and it proved to be a pivotal juncture early on their season. Coming into the game, the Clippers were on a four-game losing streak, but their 101-95 victory was the first of what would become a 17-game winning streak through New Year’s Day. Vinny Del Negro picked up Coach of the Month honors with a perfect 17-0 record in December. L.A. used 54 points in the paint to get past Minnesota, which had five players score in double figures. Kevin Love led the way with 19 points, while Alexey Shved had 17 off the bench, Luke Ridnour had 13, Nikola Pekovic had 11 and Malcolm Lee had 10. For the Clippers, Chris Paul had 23 points and 11 assists, Blake Griffin had 18 points and DeAndre Jordan had 15.
Key Matchup: Jamal Crawford and J.J. Barea
Both teams are receiving nice contributions from their first guards off the bench. Crawford, who established himself as a top-notch sixth man in Atlanta and Portland, is averaging 16.6 per game and ranks third on the Clippers’ scoring list. With 2013 being his 13th season in the NBA, Crawford is scoring as efficiently as ever with a 42 percent clip—an improvement on his career average. He provides Los Angeles with a boost off the bench, but he often ends up logging more playing time than some starters as he ranks third on the team with 29 minutes per game.
Barea has been one of the lone consistencies for Minnesota this year. At one point, he scored in double figures for 13 straight games; he also led the Wolves against Dallas, his former team, with 21 points. When everything else falls apart, you can usually count on Barea to put up a fight. The speedy guard uses his body to shield defenders away from his lay-ups, and he’s a threat from outside as well. Watch each team’s sixth man square off tonight, because they very well could also be the top scorers.
The Timberwolves had three players sidelined due to illness on Wednesday at practice, as Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward all did not participate. Malcolm Lee underwent a pair of successful surgeries this week (right hip, right knee), and Kevin Love underwent successful surgery on his right hand on Tuesday.
Clippers guard Chris Paul has missed the last two games with a bruised right kneecap, and he is listed as questionable tonight in Minnesota. Caron Butler is listed as probable with a sore right foot, Chauncey Billups has missed the last 22 games with a left foot injury, and Trey Thomkins is out indefinitely.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Chris Paul*|
|SG||Alexey Shved||Willie Green|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Caron Butler|
|PF||Dante Cunningham||Blake Griffin|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||DeAndre Jordan|
*-Questionable for tonight's game