(We didn’t have the opportunity to see a repeat performance of the lead picture here, so let’s live in the past for a few seconds! Man that was a fun night!)
The Timberwolves returned home for Thursday night’s game against the LA Clippers, arriving with a four game losing streak in tow. The Clippers came in with a two game winning streak and holding the second best record in the league. Adding a little bit of drama (see what I’m doing there?) to tonight’s game, Kevin Harlan returned to the Target Center to call Thursday’s game for TNT’s national broadcast!
There were a few changes to the starting lineup for the Pups this evening. This is likely due to a number of factors: able bodies, terrible losses, some type of spark being needed. The Wolves opened up with Rubio, Ridnour, Kirilenko, Williams, and Pekovic. Prior to tipoff, the Clippers announced that Chris Paul would miss his third straight game. The Clippers opened up with Eric Bledsoe, Willie Green, Caron Butler, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.
The first quarter was flying by as the first timeout wasn’t called until there were under five minutes left to go in the period. The Wolves found themselves down 14-9. Unfortunately, and stop me if you have heard this before, the team struggled to hit a jump shot. The four offensive rebounds the team already collected to that point couldn’t make up for the 4-16 (25%) shooting.
After the TO, the Pups went 3-5 from the field to cut the Clippers lead to two points, 19-17. This was preceded by a few nice defensive plays in the paint by DWill, including a blocked shot that led to a layup, which forced the Clippers to burn a TO. DWill clearly plays better with Rubio on the floor and while they both struggled shooting the ball, they were clearly very active. Pekovic also struggled from the floor, going 0-5 while not getting to the line. Clearly, he wasn’t paying attention to my comments in the preview. At the end of the 1st quarter, the Clippers held a 27-22 lead.
The Pups opened up the 2nd quarter in a rut, as the Clip-Joint went on an 8-2 run and opened up a 35-24 lead, forcing Terry Porter to burn another TO. There were too many easy buckets for the Clippers and the Wolves fell back into “another” shooting slump. Somehow (read: the Clippers taking a few minutes off), the Twolves slowly made a comeback to cut the lead to three points with less than two minutes to play in the half. However, with a chance to cut the lead to one, Rubio missed a wide open layup and then turned the ball over the next time down the court, leading to a Jamal Crawford three pointer.
With the last possession of the half, Ridnour had a chance to cut the lead to one possession and missed a floater. At halftime, the Clippers held a 47-43 lead. Here are a couple halftime thoughts through my Wolves lens:
- That missed layup and TO from Rubio felt like a major opportunity lost and seemed to deflate the building a bit.
- Help might be on the way for the Wolves, as the expected signing of Mickael Gelabale might become official tomorrow when Lazar Hayward’s contract runs out. Thanks to Jon K on this one …
Something tells me Gelabale will be here soon. Like really, really soon. Wearing No. 15, if you want to order your jerseys. #Twolves
— Jon Krawczynski (@APkrawczynski) January 17, 2013
To be perfectly honest, for the first few minutes of the 3rd quarter I found myself just listening to Kevin Harlan and Mike Fratello. For the record, that is a complement to Harlan and Fratello. I usually find myself trying to drain out the noise of the broadcast but really enjoy listening to the two of them. In any case, the Wolves and Clippers went back and forth for the first six minutes but the home team continued to trail.
With less than four minutes to play in the 3rd quarter, TNT panned to the Pups bench. Sadly, what they were showing was Pekovic walking to the locker room with a trainer. Seriously?! Seriously. Pek was injured when he fell to the floor after being tied up with Griffin. Sometimes, life just isn’t fair. Before the end of the quarter, it was reported that Pek had a right quad contusion and his return was questionable. (He never returned to the court.)
For the first time in at least a week (Atlanta game on 1/8?), the Wolves played a pretty decent 3rd quarter and kept the game well within striking distance. Going into the 4th quarter, the Clips led 68-63.
File this under “this is really getting depressing”: Halfway through the 4th quarter Alexey Shved came down on Lamar Odom’s foot wrong and twisted his ankle. Shved walked directly to the locker room after the play and didn’t return. I’m relatively positive this season must be the last piece of bad karma from the Joe Smith signing.
By the way, the Pups fell apart in the 4th quarter and it is hard to find a reason to blame them for doing so. If the building wasn’t deflated after Pek’s injury, it certainly was after Shved left the game. The Clippers outscored the Wolves 22-14 in the 4th to pull away and win, 90-77. The loss was the Pups 5th in a row and there are many more questions right now than answers. We’ll see what the injury report looks like for Saturday’s game in Houston.
Keys of the Game
- Nikola Pekovic – Pekovic was having one of his weakest games of the season, shooting 1-8 for 4 points. Then he went down in the 3rd quarter and didn’t return.
- Shooting – I’m “dumbing” this down to the most basic summary feasible. You aren’t going to win many games when you shoot 36% from the field, 21% (4-19) from 3PT range, and 65% (13-20) from the FT line. All systems are broken right now.
Three Stars of the Game
- Jamal Crawford – Led the Clippers in scoring with 22 points, with a few rebounds, assists, and steals sprinkled in.
- Blake Griffin – While by no means dominant, Griffin had a decent game with 20 points and decent defense.
- Luke Ridnour – Moved over to the SG position tonight with Rubio at PG and looked much more comfortable. Finished with 21 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds.