The Clippers’ early scores materialize when they aren’t able to get the designed shot, but improvise nicely to work themselves clean looks beyond the arc off smart reads [1st, 10:52; 1st, 10:17]. Unfortunately, the Clippers can’t hit their open shots, particularly Steve Novak, who puts up a goose-egg on nine shots.
It’s nip and tuck through most of the first half, until the Wolves string together a strong sequence in the closing minutes before halftime, scoring on their final eight possessions of the half. Bassy Telfair gets an all-access pass to the paint, scoring on two straight possessions. On the first [2nd, 4:28], he takes Mike Taylor off the dribble with ease. There’s no help because DeAndre Jordan’s back is to the play. The second Telfair goal [2nd, 3:45] comes on a high S/R from Kevin Love, off which Telfair darts into the paint, encounters Brian Skinner, lands with a jump step, then falls back for a fadeaway. The next play down [2nd, 3:08], Fred Jones gambles on an entry pass into Ryan Gomes in the low left post from Brian Cardinal. This leaves Gomes with an easy path to the rim — again the help is late.
The Wolves are just setting the table. Cardinal beats Baron Davis off the dribble, though he’s wildly off on the layup. No worries, because Love outmuscles Skinner to collect the refuse. Love tips the ball in for another two [3rd, 2:28]. At [2nd, 1:44], Telfair beats Taylor again, breezing into the paint for a pull-up J. On the next set down, Mike Miller runs a fade cut, and Gomes fills the space left behind. Telfair finds him for an open deuce [2nd, 1:23]. Telfair then delivers a beauty to Gomes on a basket cut from the right baseline. Gomes blows the layup, but again, a Wolf collects his own miss for a putback [2nd, 0:51]. On the final set of the half out of a :20 timeout, Minnesota gets the ball into Love in the high post. He misses the turnaround jumper, but Gordon fails to box out Miller, who crashes the glass for a tip-in with :01 second left in the half. Brutal.
Even though the Clippers allow Minnesota an 117.5 efficiency in the first half, the Clips protect the ball enough to stay in it, coughing it up only three times in the half. They head to the break trailing only by six points.
The Clips come out of the locker room a mess. DeAndre Jordan either doesn’t realize or doesn’t feel compelled to follow Kevin Love out to the left wing where he’s deadly from 18. Love drains two FGAs from there in the opening two minutes of the second half to give Minnesota their first double-digit lead. Jordan gets the message, and the next time down he runs out on Love, but in somewhat of a frenzy. This allows Love to put it on the deck and easily beat Jordan off the dribble for a layup. Love now has seven points in the first two minutes of the half. The Clips catch a break on the next Wolves’ possession when Love gets whistled for his fourth foul and is banished to the bench.
Once Love exits, the Clippers’ defense converts to a zone and, sure enough, they give up five offensive rebounds to the Wolves on the next four possessions. Someone smart needs to look at the data, but my best guess is that any advantage in defensive efficiency that’s derived from zoning up is negated by the additional possessions/attempts generated by the offensive glass. Finally, having watched a six-point deficit balloon to 11, the Clippers return for a few series to their man-to-man defense. Later, they revert back to zone and once again hemorrhage on the glass. It really is a lose-lose situation, especially once DeAndre Jordan goes down with a sprained Achilles in the third quarter. Skinner and Novak simply don’t have the ability to compete with Minnesota’s front line on the glass. To compound the Clippers’ problems, Miller and Gomes have huge size advantages on Jones and Gordon respectively.
Final rebounding totals
Clippers DRR: 53.5% [!]
Clippers ORR: 20.8% [...]
Gordon compiles a true shooting percentage of 73.7% tonight for 28 points, without a turn. Eight of the ten FGMs are from the perimeter, another two on assertive moves of the basket. Ideally, the ratio would be a bit narrower, but when you’re feeling it like Eric is tonight, 4:1 is just fine. Best of all, he’s honing his ability to move along the arc to find not only the best spots, but good angles for the passer to hit him with a clean pass.
Brian Skinner puts together a solid effort. That little lefty hook at [3rd, 3:20] impresses, as does his ability to work himself five trips to the line.
The Clippers tie Washington tonight for the league’s second-worst record, though the Bullets spend three of their final four games on the road.