Attempting to avoid their 8th consecutive loss, the Timberpups returned to the Target Center without their star Kevin Love, who after suffering a mild concussion and strained neck last night in Denver was unable to make the trip home. With Love sidelined indefinitely, the Pups simply did not have the personnel to match up effectively against an extremely deep Clippers team. Despite owning a one point advantage after one half of play, Lob City eventually pulled away in the second half and defeated the Timberwolves 95-82.
With only 10 able bodies for Rick Adelman to work with, this was an unlikely win from the start. At halftime, the T-Wolves led the Clippers 48-47. The Pups outshot the Clips 53% to 42%, thanks in part to JJ Barea, who recorded a double-double with 10 points and 10 assists in the first half, making it the fifth time in Timberwolves history that a player recorded 10 points and 10 assists in a single half. Barea and Pekovic thrived on the pick-and-roll game and the Clippers seemingly had no answer for it all half. The Wolves did a good job of shutting down Blake Griffin in the paint and held him to 4-9 shooting while stuffing him twice. However, the second half was a different story. Beginning with a 7-0 Clippers run right out of the gates, the Wolves were never able to gain back control of the game from that point on and lost their defensive intensity that they displayed in the first half. By the fourth quarter, the Pups were playing with little to no pride or accountability on the defensive end and committed countless mental mistakes that Minnesota fans were so accustomed to watching last season.
After a fantastic first half, Barea had a tumultuous second half and failed to record another point while only tallying 1 more assist. In 31 minutes of play, the sparkplug PG committed 7 turnovers and 4 personal fouls, and he got so concerned over the officiating that he took himself out of the game mentally and really hurt the team. Barea was signed in part to bring veteran leadership and composure in the face of adversity, yet he pouts to officials arguably more than anyone on the team and lets his emotions dictate the way he plays the game. Backing up Barea was Malcolm Lee, and he had a solid but quiet night. Lee was active on the defensive end and worked his tail end off the entire game, and for that I have the utmost respect for him. Whether the game was separated by 2 points or 20, Lee is earning his minutes and does not allow himself to give less than 100% every time he steps onto the floor. The intensity that Lee plays with on both ends of the court is exactly what you want to see out of players, and instead of yapping at officials for missed calls he keeps his head down and shuts up.
Coming off of his season-high 28 point performance last night, Anthony Randolph came off the bench and delivered with 16 points on 7-12 shooting. AR-15 recorded 3 more blocks and 9 rebounds and played tough interior defense. He is still very raw and immature as a player, but man he has all the physical tools necessary to be a good PF in this league. This is going to be a big offseason for Randolph, as he is set to become a restricted free agent and has a few more weeks to prove his worth to everybody. One thing remains crystal clear: for AR-15 to take his game to the next level, he needs to beef up. Although he has been in the NBA for 4 years now, Randolph has yet to put on significant mass despite possessing a good frame to do so. The combination of length and athleticism make him a scoring threat, but his lack of mass allows him to get tossed around by SGs and SFs as well as PFs and Cs.
On the note of unfulfilled potential, Wes Johnson had a cold shooting night and converted only 1 of his 6 field goal attempts in 31 minutes of play. Wes looked awkward and hesitant on the court once again and was an easy guard for Caron Butler. Yet again getting the start at SG, Martell Webster had a neutral performance of 10 points and 5 rebounds in 34 minutes of play. The problem concerning Webster is not what he is doing wrong, but it is what he is not doing. Webster seems to have fallen into the same mindset that Wes possesses and hesitates at open driving lanes and refuses to let loose in one-on-one situations. He has lost his swagger that he had for some time last season, and there is no doubt that he has a lot more to give to this Pups team.
In K-Love’s place, Derrick Williams got the start coming off of his season-high 27 point performance last night. Things went from bad to ugly for the rookie out of Arizona, as he was out of control off of the dribble and unable to get separation from his defender in order to get good shooting looks. Going up against a solid defensive Clippers frontcourt, D-Will’s moves were predictable and defenders were able to time his shot attempts well, helping to hold him to only 4 points on 1-7 shooting. On top of that, D-Will committed 4 turnovers and 5 personal fouls in his 26 minutes of play, and Coach Adelman was noticeably displeased by the rookie’s play tonight.
Playing with bone spurs, Nikola Pekovic was able to provide 33 minutes of action and recorded 17 points and 6 rebounds. However, Pek was vastly more effective in the first half than the second mainly due to the success of the pick-and-roll game with Barea, but the offense deteriorated and the Clippers defense anticipated Pek’s shots well.
Lastly, Michael Beasley was Michael Beasley tonight and scored 14 points on 6-15 shooting while grabbing 10 rebounds. Super Cool Beas was very active on the glass, but was sloppy when dribbling the ball which led to 3 turnovers. Beasley has gotten away from driving to the rim and is relying on poor shot selection in order to score. Anthony Tolliver saw only 11 minutes and scored just 2 points.
- Key Player: Despite missing a wide-open fast break dunk to the fans amusement, Blake Griffin exploited the Kevin Love-less Timberwolves to avoid a season sweep. Griffin finished with 19 points, 13 rebounds, and 5 assists.
- Key Stat: The Pups committed 17 turnovers compared to just 9 for the Clippers. Carelessness with the ball continues to be a major problem for a squad with only 2 healthy ball handlers.
Photo Credits: hiphopforbreakfast.com