Tonight, under the glimmer of the Staples Center lights, a star was born. After having a relatively quiet first half of the season, Derrick Williams put out his best performance as a pro, scoring 27 points and missing only one shot all game. D-Will was seemingly unconscious tonight, hitting shot after shot in the face of his defender and slashing and finishing at the hoop with perfect touch. In a pair of performances nobody could have predicted, Michael Beasley played spectacularly alongside Williams, also scoring 27 points on 11-15 shooting. Between Beasley and D-Will, they shot a combined 7-7 from three-point range and led a dominating fourth quarter charge in which the Timberwolves hit their first 10 field goal attempts in the quarter. Shooting 79% in the fourth , the Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the Los Angeles Clippers 109-97 in their second meeting this season.
The last time these two teams met, Kevin Love played the hero and nailed a buzzer beating three-pointer to shock the Clippers in Los Angeles. Tonight, the Pups other power forward took over in the second half and was truly unstoppable against a very good Clippers ballclub. The game was very evenly matched throughout three quarters, and the Clippers led going into the fourth quarter 76-73. However, the duo of Beasley and Williams found seamless chemistry together and scored 54 of the Wolves 72 bench points.
In another highly anticipated matchup of Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, Griffin got the upper hand on Love and was a dominating force in the first half, scoring 24 points on 8-13 shooting, eventually ending with 30 points and 7 rebounds. K-Love was only able to play 25 minutes as he got two quick fouls midway through the first quarter, sending him to the bench for much of the first half. In the second half, Love sustained a rib contusion, and combined with the dominating play of Williams, Love spent much of the second on the bench. In his time on the court, Love scored 10 points and grabbed 7 rebounds, but played very poor defense on Griffin and posed virtually no threat to stopping the Blake Show from scoring or getting to the free throw line.
Despite having a very poor game shooting the ball, Ricky Rubio did his job as point guard and did a great job finding open teammates and setting up players for open looks. Tricky Ricky scored just 2 points, but tallied 9 assists and grabbed 7 rebounds in 29 minutes of play. Chris Paul posed quite a tough matchup for Rubio, but the rookie sensation was able to come out tonight on top. In relief of Ricky, JJ Barea played another fine game as he recorded 6 points and 7 assists in 22 minutes. Barea has found a groove in Rick Adelman’s offense and has been arguably as good as Rubio in the past three games. Barea’s poise in the fourth quarter gives the Wolves another option as a closer, and the intangibles he brings to this club have contributed to the fast culture change that was initiated with the arrival of Rick Adelman and Ricky Rubio.
In his first appearance against the Timberwolves this season, Chris Paul demonstrated why he is the best point guard in the NBA and was able to manipulate and break down the Wolves defense with veteran acumen. His playmaking ability kept Wolves defenders close to their man, giving CP3 the chance to shoot wide-open midrange jumpers all game. Paul enjoyed a great game, scoring 27 points and dishing 6 assists, but his teams inability to hit open shots in the second half largely contributed to their fourth quarter collapse. As a team, the Clippers were a mere 2-11 from three-point range, while the Timberwolves were an impressive 10-22. The Timberwolves were able to use individual matchups to help shut down the Clippers on defense, and Darko Milicic played a large role in slowing down Blake Griffin in the second half. Although he lacks offensive polish, there is no arguing that Darko is a very good interior defender, and Rick Adelman had confidence going to him when neither Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Love could stop him. Tyrannosaurus Pek saw a decreased role tonight but still contributed positively as he scored 12 points and grabbed 4 rebounds.
Luke Ridnour played another solid game and scored 12 points on 4-7 shooting, while playing very good defense throughout the game. Luke’s lack of size at shooting guard has not been a problem for the Pups this season, and he continues to prove himself to be a very serviceable starting shooting guard. Wes Johnson had another quiet night offensively, but his defense must not go unnoticed. Matched up against Caron Butler, Butler shot a horrendous 1-10 from the field and scored only 2 points. The Clippers big money veteran swingman was completely off tonight and whether it was mainly due to good defense or his own problems is not completely clear.
The Pups really struggled on their weak-side defense, failing to step up on help defense far too often and standing idly while their teammates got beat off the dribble, giving up easy layups. The Wolves really turned up the heat in the second half and played much-improved defense, but the fact is that the Clippers missed far too many open jumpers for a team of their caliber.
As the trade deadline nears, the rumors swirling around Michael Beasley being shipped to a new team just became more muddled. While virtually no one expected it, Derrick Williams and Beasley enjoyed enormous success alongside each other, and Rick Adelman and David Kahn may not want to tinker with the roster. Although it may simply be a one-time performance, Beasley and Williams were perfect tonight and would have beaten any 5 opponents that stepped onto the Staples Center floor.
Key Player: Tip of the cap to Derrick Williams who is finally starting to grasp how to play in the NBA. Missing only 1 shot tonight and hitting all 4 of his three-pointers, D-Will was unstoppable.
Key Stat: 72 Timberwolves bench points compared to only 9 for the Clippers. The depth of the Wolves bench continues to play a huge factor in many of the teams wins this season.
Image: AP Photo/Jae C. Hong