At the time the Clippers beat the Knicks, they had only four more games left on the first half of the road trip: Cleveland, Toronto, Milwaukee and Minnesota. Not one of those games provided the same level of difficulty as those first four. Sure, lumping the Knicks in with the Hawks, Magic and Heat might be generous, but the Clippers still won one of the first four on the second night of a back to back in storied Madison Square Garden and their raucous fans. Not bad considering they were at the point to really go on a run, beat some teams and cruise into All Star weekend with a 4-4 record on the road, I’m sure some of us even thought 5-3.
But for the first time since, the team’s awful 1-13 start, they don’t look like they’re improving. Blake’s numbers have taken their first monthly downturn of the year (21.9 points, 12.3 rebounds, 3 assists) and are most similar to his November stats. Looking deeper, it shows that he’s not the quite the same player he is on the road as he’s averaging 19.9 points on 46.8 percent shooting (7.2 percent lower than at home) while acquiring 12.6 rebounds (normal) and serving up 2.6 assists (1.6 fewer than at home).
Without Blake playing dominantly and efficiently, the margin for error with the Clippers is scary thin, and the young guys make more mistakes on the road. Granted, Baron has really upped his play on the road trip, but with Eric Gordon out, Blake not playing as well along with the other young guys not playing well (DeAndre, I’m especially looking at you), the Clippers can only pray for the opposing teams to play crappier than they are.
The team needs to get back the rhythm they had at home. The Wolves look like a good matchup, because the Clippers man-handled them in the last two games. But whether those games were a product of playing at home or favorable mismatches for the Clippers, it will show tonight.
Keys to the Game
– Go with the flow. The Wolves play a high turnover, high paced game that suits the Clippers’ athletic players and takes the pressure off to severely limit their frequent mistakes. They almost won in Minnesota back in November, and Michael Beasley, the guy who hit the game winner, may not even play.
– Blake domination of the Wolves’ bigs. Kevin Love is neither bigger nor faster than Blake, Darko has the length but he’s just returning from injury, Beasley might defend as well by not playing, and Nicola Pekovic isn’t exactly the Montenegrin Kevin Garnett. Blake has the advantage over every single one, he needs to be efficient and relentless.
– No big games from the Wolves Players. In the last three losses, they’ve let guys like Antawn Jamison (35 points), J.J. Hickson (27), Andrea Bargniani (27) and Carlos Delfino (26) light them up. The Clips can’t continue to let average players like them erupt. Notice that they are all forwards (Delfino being the only SF), that means Blake, DeAndre, Cookie and Ike (should he get minutes) all need to step up. Candidates for big games on the Wolves: Love, Darko, Martell Webster.
Chris Kaman: left ankle, out
Eric Gordon: wrist/back, out
Craig Smith: herniated disc, out
Michael Beasley: left ankle, questionable