The Timberwolves hosted the Los Angeles Clippers Wednesday night, looking to even the record after a 2-point loss in LA last week.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, LA’s Chris Paul lived up to his All-Star reputation, and the Wolves found themselves unable to catch up. Paul scored 16 points in the final quarter, and the Wolves landed on the wrong side of the 102-98 final score. Combined, starters Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio contributed only 15 points.
The Clippers delivered an explosive first quarter, and the Target Center crowd grew eerily quiet as LA went on a 12-0 run—10 of those points from JJ Reddick—following tipoff.
Minnesota answered, though, and went on a 12-4 run of its own. Love tallied seven of his 10 points in the first period, and the Wolves tied the score at 24 to begin the second quarter.
Head coach Rick Adelman switched lines to begin Q2. Early on, the reserves looked disjointed and weak as a unit. However, the game continued its odd “back-and-forth” trend, and the bench squad watched LA pull away for a bit before finding its groove and fighting back on a 12-0 run.
The halftime score was once again tied at 46 apiece. Blake Griffin and Love—the team’s power forwards and top players—held only two and seven points, respectively, to end the half.
The Wolves held their own against the Clips to start the third. Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin led the team in scoring, while Corey Brewer added the necessary spark on defense. The teams exchanged leads early on in the period, but by the beginning of the fourth, LA took the reins and didn’t back down.
Despite a well-fought contest, the final quarter sealed the Timberwolves’ fate. Martin continued to score, but Paul proved unstoppable. Minnesota came within two or three points a couple times, but with no results. Paul responded each time, and the guard led his team to its second victory over the Wolves in 10 days.
“It’s a tough loss,” Coach Adelman said post-game. “Chris Paul took over in the fourth quarter and made a lot of big plays. Our guys battled, but there were too many spurts by them […]. They had these spurts where they go up ten. It’s hard to come back from that.”
Minnesota battled to within three in the final few minutes, but in the end Paul drove home a victory for his team.
“That’s who [Paul] is,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “He’s one of the best players in the league. He’s capable of doing that.”
The Timberwolves shot only 38 percent from the field to LA’s 49 percent, and the largest deficit showed itself in perimeter shooting. Out of 22 three-point shots attempted, only five landed in Minnesota’s favor. The Clippers, on the other hand, shot 50 percent from behind the arc. Jamal Crawford proved a major weapon off the bench for LA as he scored 12 of his 16 points from downtown.
Three Stars of the Game
- Kevin Martin: Landing a double-double, Martin led all scorers with 28 points and an added 10 rebounds. Martin is undoubtedly proving himself as the team’s best offseason pickup—on both sides of the floor. Over the past four games, the 30-year-old has averaged 21.5 points and 1.3 steals per game.
- Chris Paul: The point guard shot 50 percent from the field and scored 16 of his 20 points in the final quarter to lead his team to a win. Paul also dished out 11 assists for the night.
- Blake Griffin: Despite having a quiet first half, LA’s leading scorer ended the night with 20 points, 10 rebounds and two steals. In Griffin’s first contest against the Wolves this season, he tallied 25 points and another 10 rebounds.
- Kevin Martin will continue to be a main weapon in Minnesota’s arsenal. Martin recorded 15 points in the fourth quarter, proving the only one giving the Wolves a chance against Paul’s scoring run. Martin had his first double-double of the season and his ninth career double-double. It was his first since Nov. 4, 2009.
- Minnesota needs Love to score in double-digits to be effective. The Timberwolves fell to LA by only four points, while the All-Star forward proved almost non-existent offensively. Love shot 2-of-14 from the field Wednesday night and finished the game with only seven points.
- The Clippers hold one of the strongest bench units in the league. With Matt Barnes sidelined and three players who remained inactive last night, LA’s bench unit consisted of Jamal Crawford, Reggie Bullock, Ryan Hollins and Darren Collison. Together, the squad finished with 32 of the Clips’ 104 points.
- Minnesota is missing Chase Budinger. In a game where Minnesota shot less than 30 percent from the perimeter, the forward’s absence was sorely felt. The sooner Budinger returns to the floor, the better.