Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Clippers
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Wolves (17-24) vs Clippers (33-13) at 7:00 PM, Target Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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The Timberwolves lost to the Clippers at home less than two weeks ago, but they’ll get a chance to steal one back from Los Angeles tonight. The No. 3-seeded Clippers come to town to face Minnesota for the third time this year. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM.
Minnesota comes off of a disappointing back-to-back on the East Coast, losing consecutive games to both Washington and Charlotte. Today the Wolves start a long home stand where they play six home games over a stretch of nine days, giving them a chance to recover from their recent slump.
When L.A. last played Minnesota, they won and continued a hot streak that saw them win seven of eight games. Just when critics were starting to proclaim the Clippers as one of the best teams in the league, they went and lost four straight. The possible reason? The absence of star guard Chris Paul, who was missing in three of four of those losses with a knee bruise.
Now, both Paul and Chauncey Billups are listed as out indefinitely. With today’s game in Minnesota the first of eight consecutive road games, this stretch will be an incredible test of Los Angeles’ resolve. On one hand, they have been lauded as one of the deepest teams in the league all year. On the other hand, Chris Paul is an elite game manager who has started 39 of the Clippers’ 46 games this season. If Los Angeles is to maintain its playoff position—currently sitting at third in the Western Conference—Eric Bledsoe must step up at point guard, and in a big way.
Last Time Out: January 17, 2013
Key cogs Nikola Pekovic and Alexey Shved both left the court with injuries in the second half as the Wolves couldn’t keep up with the Los Angeles Clippers, losing 90-77 on Jan. 17.
Despite trailing for the entire third quarter, the Wolves were not far behind. They kept the deficit below 10 at all times and had forced 17 Los Angeles turnovers going into the fourth quarter. But the Clippers blew the lead open in the final frame, going up by as much as 15 and locking up their third straight win.
Minnesota gave a good defensive effort, holding Los Angeles more than 10 points below its season average. But the Clippers’ experience and deep bench ended up drowning out the weary Wolves.
Crawford led the assault against the Wolves with 22 points, and teammate Blake Griffin had 20. Lamar Odom added 12 rebounds and six assists, leading in both categories.
Ridnour had 21 points for Minnesota, shooting 3-for-6 from the perimeter. Andrei Kirilenko logged 15 points, five rebounds and four steals. J.J. Barea, the previous game’s leader, struggled from the field as he shot just 2-for-10.
Key Matchup: Eric Bledsoe and Ricky Rubio
Bledsoe’s play during this eight-game road stretch is absolutely integral to Los Angeles’ success. He is a good player, just a few years removed from going “one-and-done” at Kentucky. He is about as athletic and physical as point guards get, as he furiously drives the lane and uses his momentum to carry himself to the basket and/or draw a foul. But comparing his statistical line with Chris Paul’s evenly over 36 minutes, Paul more than doubles Bledsoe’s assist production per game, 10.4 to 5.0. That’s a significant difference, especially at the point guard position.
It’s good news for Ricky Rubio that coach Rick Adelman has returned to the sideline. Adelman is the coach who helped Rubio blossom as a rookie and began the process of easing him back from his knee surgery this year. And now that Adelman is back from his 11-game hiatus, the scene is set for Rubio to start returning to his old form. We saw a glimpse on Saturday, as he totaled 14 points, eight assists and five steals for easy his best statistical game this season. Timberwolves fans hope that with Adelman guiding him and key targets like Alexey Shved and Nikola Pekovic healthy again, Rubio can flourish.
Injury report presented by TSR Injury Law
The Timberwolves got good news this week as both center Nikola Pekovic (right quad contusion) and guard Alexey Shved (sprained left ankle) each were cleared to play on Wednesday against the Clippers. Ironically, the last time these two played was against L.A. when they each suffered second half injuries. Pekovic provides such a presence down low that often demands double teams, and plugging him back in the lane will likely open up lanes for guys like Shved and other back court facilitators looking to make a play. In addition to the team signing Chris Johnson and Mickael Gelabale to second 10-day contracts on Tuesday, this will likely be the fullest available roster coach Rick Adelman has seen in weeks. Speaking of Adelman, he also returned to practice this week after missing about three weeks to be with his ailing wife, and this will be his first game coaching since Jan. 5 against Portland.
Clippers guard Chris Paul has missed seven of his team’s last nine games, and he’ll sit out again tonight with a bruised right knee cap. Fellow guard Chauncey Billups is also out until at least next month due to tendonitis in his left foot. He hasn’t played since Dec. 3, and he’s only played in three games this season. The Clippers will also be without forward Trey Thompkins, who is missing time with a left knee injury.
|Tonight's Probable Starters|
|PG||Ricky Rubio||Eric Bledsoe|
|SG||Luke Ridnour||Willie Green|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Caron Butler|
|PF||Derrick Williams||Blake Griffin|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||DeAndre Jordan|