For the second time, the Clippers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves at home for a three game winning streak. Back in December that streak was news, but tonight there was another streak that was much, much bigger news. For the first time since November, Blake Griffin didn’t get a double double. He played very well, scoring 29 points on 10 of 21 shooting with 6 assists and yet, he ‘only’ snatched 8 rebounds. However, I was proud of him not getting the double double, proud of VDN for taking Blake out of the game when there was plenty of time to get those last two rebounds.
Let me explain, had he gotten that double double in the minutes that he played, great. But this was a game that was decided pretty early in the fourth quarter and the Clippers actually care about winning. They want to make the playoffs (even if it’s a long shot). And because of that attitudinal shift, combined with their road game up in Portland tomorrow, it was in the best interest of the Clippers to rest Griffin for those remaining 3:55. It doesn’t happen often, but the Clippers are actually strategizing to win multiple games and not just celebrating the individual moments.
Just ask Blake how he felt on the streak ending:
“Now I can just start a new one. So it’s whatever.”
He doesn’t exactly sound crushed by its end.
This game wasn’t exactly the cleanest of games, both teams turned the ball over a ton (Clippers 23 TOs, Wolves 19) and it never really had much of a flow, and in that spirit I’m going to give a few bullet points on the rest of the game.
- Eric Gordon tore or sprained a ligament in his ring finger on his shooting hand and missed a large chunk of the first half. He came back into the game and finished with 23 points on 7 for 14 shooting, 3 for 3 beyond the arc and 6 for 6 from the line. He has played well against this Wolves team all season (scoring 30 and 36 in the other two games). So, I’m not sure he was too affected by his injury. That said, it’s probably pretty painful and will swell up tomorrow. The Clippers will keep an eye on it, but Gordon talks like he’s going to play through it. At least it’s not the index or middle finger.
- Baron shot well against the Wolves, 7 for 12 from the field and 3 for 6 from behind the arc. While he only had 4 assists (some of his assists were botched), he had a very good game within the flow of the offense. It’s not like he was shooting pull-up threes, Baron took his shots with his feet set and an open look to the rim. I like those shots from him. Also, Baron was the team leader in both steals and blocks with three a piece. I know he had the same amount of turnovers as assists (4), but Baron continues to care and play well.
- Mike Smith’s hyperbole surfaced again tonight when Blake got his own rebound for a put-back dunk. Smith called it the most impressive play of the season for Blake when, frankly, it wasn’t even his most impressive play of the game. His most impressive play of the game came when Blake brought the ball up court with Corey Brewer on his hip and Lazar Hayward in front. Brewer tried to use his length and quickness to get on one side of Blake and swipe the ball away, only Blake spun to his left, bringing the ball high up and away from Brewer’s reach. Finding himself now open, Blake quickly rose and dunked the ball, capping the highlight of his fantastic play down the floor.
(The video of the first dunk)
- Blake made another three, this time to finish the first quarter. He now owns a better three point percentage (50 percent) than the more famous shooter in his head to head match-up, Kevin Love. I like how comfortable he looks shooting and the discipline that he has to not roam around out there.
- The Clippers held the Wolves to 1 for 16 shooting from three, their best defensive performance from behind the arc this year.
- The Clippers also out-rebounded the Wolves by a considerable margin, 45-33. A huge reason that they dominated the game.
- Kevin Love’s streak continues. The bitterness of the game, especially considering Blake’s 21 and 7 first half, was that Kevin Love’s streak continued. He even forgot to pick up a rebound in the entire first half. But then he collected 11 in the second, finishing with 26 points to go with it.
The Clippers fly out to Portland to take on the continually injured Trail Blazers tomorrow night. Another great win though, the Clips are 11-4 in their last 15.