Coming off of a blowout defeat in Oakland on Tuesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves traveled to the Staples center the following evening to take on the Los Angeles Clippers. The Clippers, 30-9 at home this season, were playing to clinch their first Pacific Division title in franchise history and one more win at home would give them their largest home win total in franchise history.
Entering the game on a massive shooting slump, Ricky Rubio, who had previously made only 3 of his previous 33 field goal attempts, shot just 2-8 from the field and ended with another tough line of 6 points and 7 assists in 23 minutes.
Rubio had a tough assignment as he was opposite of the consensus top point guard in the NBA, Chris Paul. Paul was masterful against the Timberwolves, absolutely dissecting the defense off the dribble drive while manipulating pick-and-rolls to veteran perfection. Los Angeles carried a 12-point lead into halftime while the Wolves appeared as if they had very little left in the tank in the second game of a back-to-back.
The Pups came back from the break hungry, as they staged a 13-4 run bringing the game within three points in the third period. The Wolves did a better job of limiting turnovers as shown by 9 total team turnovers in the contest. However, the Clippers got things back in check and exploded near the end of the quarter to lead 88-72 going into the final quarter
The Wolves have a very difficult time getting back into game when they struggle so mightily shooting from beyond the arc. It is not a very simple formula: when you excel making shots that are worth more than 2-pointers, it is easier to cut deficits. Somebody tell that to David Kahn!
The Pups ultimately fell in Los Angeles by a score of 111-95. They play next in Utah on Friday night.
Keys of the Game:
- Shot-blocking - What’s new in the world? The Wolves had a tough time in the interior as the Clippers logged 11 blocks as a team compared to only 4 by the Timberwolves. Ironically, one of the shortest guys on the floor (Chris Paul) logged half as many blocks as Minnesota did as a team, while DeAndre Jordan added 5 himself. Neither of the Pups primary shot-blockers – Greg Stiemsma and Chris Johnson – were able to record a single block.
- Three-point shooting - I have become a broken record to this point in the season… Los Angeles converted on 11 of their 21 three-point attempts while the Wolves hit only 6 of their 23 tries from deep. The lack of perimeter shooting has greatly limited the Wolves ability to stay in games like the one Wednesday night.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Chris Paul - The best point guard in the NBA logged 19 points (7-11 FG, 2-2 3Pt), 11 assists, 7 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks to go along with a mere one turnover. Certainly an incredible stat line when going against one of the better perimeter defenders in the league in Rubio. CP3 helped to fundamentally change the dynamic for the young Clippers team when they decided to give up Eric Gordon and assets for him, and it has turned out better than anyone could have predicted for the franchise.
- Blake Griffin - The other Clippers star played a stellar 30 minutes and finished with 19 points (9-13 FG), 8 rebounds and 7 assists while turning the ball over a game-high times. Now a perennial All-Star, Griffin has flourished against the Timberwolves when Kevin Love has been absent and his athleticism was profoundly unmatched against the Timberwolves.
- Nikola Pekovic - One of the sole bright spots of the game came from the play of Pek, who finished with 20 points (7-13 FG) and 5 rebounds in 25 minutes.