The Clippers narrowly escaped with a victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Los Angeles. This game had so much going for it: a squaring off of the league’s best power forwards, a potential playoff preview, two potent offenses — and man did it deliver. This was a barn burner, folks. Here’s how it went down.
Los Angeles Clippers
Recap | Box score
MVP: It might not have felt like it, but Blake Griffin (25 points, five assists) quietly matched Kevin Loves offensive output (23 points, seven assists) tit for tat. Griffin was aggressive from the onset and used the threat of his much improved jumper to open up drives to the rim.
X factor: Defense. Neither team played much of it, but the Clippers held the Wolves to just 41.7 percent shooting, while the Wolves allowed the Clippers to shoot a scorching 55 percent. That disparity made up for the Wolves’ edge in 3-pointers and offensive rebounds.
That was… exhilarating: Both times the Clippers pulled away, the Wolves answered with either a 9-2 or 10-1 run. In the end, though, the Wolves’ comeback (and Love’s last-second tip-in) came up an inch short.
– Jovan Buha
Tweet of the Night
I hate to laugh BUT, it’s funny. I love u my baby
— Kimberly Jordan (@callmeMISSKIM), mother of DeAndre, poking fun at her son’s air-balled free throw. November 11, 2013
The Depth Charge
|Byron Mullens, C||9||1–3||0-1||0-0||1||0||1||0||0||1||0||0||2||2|
|Ryan Hollins, C||12||2-4||0-0||3-5||0||2||2||1||0||0||1||0||2||7|
|Antawn Jamison, PF||DNP COACH’S DECISION|
ClipperBlog Live’s Best Moment
In trying to explain why Chris Paul didn’t get called for a foul on that amazing steal (which was almost certainly a foul), ClipperBlog Executive Editor D.J. Foster likens Corey Brewer’s style of play to “a hummingbird on acid.”
Check Your Messages
Ro Sham BOOM
Rock: Nikola Pekovic, giant human, ducking in play after play at the end of the first half to keep the Wolves going until
Paper: Corey Brewer, pestering human, caused turnovers and leaked out relentlessly. Covered tons of ground, but was sliced up by
Scissors: Chris Paul, crafty human, crumpled Brewer’s ankles then robbed him for a huge steal (the best Ralph Lawler’s ever seen!) that probably wouldn’t have mattered if it weren’t for
Dynamite: Jamal Crawford, blows up in someone’s face every night, but gave the Clippers a bench advantage, found open cutters, and played one of his best games as a Clipper.
– D.J. Foster
Late game histrionics
It was a bit jarring to see Doc Rivers on the court with 12 seconds left in the game screaming for a timeout. With six seconds on the shot clock, Chris Paul essentially had Ricky Rubio one on one with a clear lane.
Now, Rivers did execute an offense/defense substitution by bringing in Crawford and Redick for Collison and Barnes. And the Clippers had a reasonable sideline out-of-bounds play with Griffin on the left wing, fake drop pass to Paul, fake dribble hand off to Crawford and then a straight line to the rim. But was all of that better than what the Clippers already had? Hero ball versus strategy in a nutshell.
– Andrew Han
No place for Crawford to hide
The Clippers were able to put together the ninth best defense in the league last season, despite notoriously poor defender Jamal Crawford playing nearly 50 percent of Los Angeles’s available shooting guard minutes. His negative defensive impact was mostly mitigated by hiding him on the opponent’s worst offensive player, which forced all the other defensive players into some wonky match-ups. This strategy worked last year, with flexible players like Eric Bledsoe, Lamar Odom, Grant Hill, and Matt Barnes who were able to handle unusual defensive assignments.
Los Angeles has had a much tougher time hiding Crawford this season. Darren Collison and Byron Mullens may both be worse defenders than Crawford, and neither provides the versatility required to mix up match-ups. Crawford was matched up with Kevin Martin all too often tonight and was destroyed when facing him. The fully exposed Crawford has led to the Clippers allowing an appalling 116 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor, 13 points per 100 possessions higher than what they allowed with him last year.
– Jacob Frankel
Going back-to-back against the L.A. teams
Monday night marked the second time this season that the Clippers faced a team the Lakers had played the previous night. On Oct. 30, the Warriors hosted the Lakers a night before traveling south to take on the Clippers at Staples Center. This time, of course, the Timberwolves played consecutive nights at Staples. In each case, the non-L.A. team blew out the Lakers before narrowly falling to the Clippers. We know the Clippers are a better team than the Lakers and two instances comprise a microscopic sample size, but some of the specifics are interesting to note.
Against the Lakers on Sunday, the Timberwolves shot nearly 50 percent as a team with Timberwolves other than Love and Pekovic scoring a robust 74 points on 51 percent shooting. Fast forward 25 hours (Sunday was a 9:30 ET start) and Minnesota shot below 42 percent, with Wolves other than Love and Pekovic scoring 59 points on 34-percent shooting. Despite playing on the second night of a back-to-back, the Timberwolves appeared to play with a good deal of energy in transition and on the boards, as usual. Even so, they appeared to run out of steam midway through the fourth quarter and never fully recovered, though they did come close.
– Aaron Fischman
(Nearly) Lost in the funhouse
Clippers and Timberwolves. There is something almost eerie about these two teams; the two are strange reflections of one another. As ClipperBlog managing editor Andrew Han astutely pointed out on Twitter tonight: “there’s a roster symmetry between the Wolves and Clippers this season.” I couldn’t agree more.
Both teams’ best players are at the point and power forward. Paul and Rubio are quite different at first glance; one is undersized, the other is range-y. One is known as a clutch scorer, the other has trouble hitting the ocean from a boat. And yet each is a maestro. They are both passing wizards with glue on their fingers and they just stole your keys. Griffin is Griffin. A fantastic talent and one of the best in the league at his position. But Love? Dude is simply the best power forward in the game. Forget the hype. Love is all you need. Both teams have ridiculous physical specimens at center. One is perhaps the most athletic at his position; the other is perhaps the strongest. Both are incorporating newly acquired sharpshooting two guards. And even at the three spot, Corey Brewer is a bit of a Matt Barnes with a Jared Dudley attitude.
Minnesota has been a shadow of the Clippers these last few years, but a lot of that has come down to bad fortune. If it weren’t for the persistent and depressing injuries suffered by Minnesota these past few seasons, the two outfits could have been battling neck-and-neck for play off positioning. As it is, this game was a close one. The Clippers narrowly escaped with the win. There were fascinating match-ups everywhere you looked. If the Timberwolves can stay healthy this season, look out. I would not at all be surprised to see these two squads square off in the playoffs with slightly bemused expressions on their faces- as if saying, “hey, you look familiar.”
– Dylan Rice-Leary
Too many holes, not enough band-aid solutions
For myriad teams, the question has always been this: Can a powerhouse offense carry an abysmal defense to a championship? Even history, that concrete pantheon of all questions hitherto, is confused about this one. The Phoenix Suns circa 2007 would tell you no, the early 2000’s Lakers would say the opposite.
The Clippers and Timberwolves are two such teams. Armed with creative point guards, All-Star power forwards, and a plethora of rim spacers, these clubs churn out an explosive product night in and night out. But they’re troubled with too many defensive questions for their offense to provide any elongated sense of comfort.
The Wolves, while statistically imposing in the early portion of this season with a sixth-place 98.1 defensive efficiency, have no shot-blockers at the rim. Pekovic and Love aren’t particularly fast, and while Pek displays an impressive degree of strength, Love isn’t one to hold his own in the post. The Clippers, on the other hand, are trotting out the NBA’s second-worst defensive attack.
These teams, plagued by defensive mishaps and truly uninspiring benches, share a great deal of parallels. But there’s one key difference: Love and Pekovic are staunch rebounders, garnering a +10 advantage for the Wolves on the offensive glass tonight, whereas the Clippers seem indifferent to the act of rebounding all together.
And that right there is the kicker. Thanks to Jamal Crawford’s heroics, the Clippers came out victorious tonight. But they got their butts kicked on the offensive glass and gave up easy baskets all night. Shooting over top of problems is quickly becoming the story of this Clippers’ season and with a disregard for both defense and rebounding, it’s hard to see it ending well in the long run.
– Seerat Sohi
That was foul
It was all too predictable. DeAndre Jordan misses a couple of free throws (with one of them being that patented airball) and the next possession, Rick Adelman goes to deck-a-DJ
There were just over four minutes remaining in the game. The Timberwolves had two minutes to foul. So on the following possession, Doc Rivers pulled Jordan for Ryan Hollins.
Deck-a-DJ might be a bigger problem than ever before this year. That’s not because of Jordan per se, but more because of his replacement. With Hollins in the game, the Wolves cut the Clipper lead to two. That’s not going to change. This Clipper defense relies too much on the starters for deck-a-DJ to dictate moves late in games.
So what are the Clips to do? Play Hollins? Play Mullens? Go small? All of those options would’ve left them without a true defensive presence in the paint against a team that has the meatiest front court in the league.
After so much preseason talk of playing Jordan in the fourth quarter, Doc Rivers has lived up to his word. D.J. has been closing games — and he’s been doing it well. Monday night though, the Wolves dictated Rivers’ decision making, at least until the two-minute warning. If that trend continues against top teams with top coaches, the Clippers aren’t in much of a different fourth-quarter position than they were in last season.
– Fred Katz
Love This Game: How West Puts On Show
There was mutual praise after the game. Love and Rubio enumerated the case for the Clippers.
“Blake [Griffin] is a very good player,” Love said. “DeAndre [Jordan] is a very good player. They have good bigs and they fight hard. They’re very athletic, rebound the ball and, you know, the high-wire act.”
Meanwhile, a normally reserved Rubio effusively praised the conductor of that, you know, high-wire act, Paul.
“He’s great,” Rubio said. “He’s at the top, the best player right now out of all the point guards in the league.”
The defense still needs work in Los Angeles, but the starters are holding their own. The Clippers and Timberwolves might be able to run roughshod in the East, where only three teams are playing better than .500 ball. But the West is merciless and the conference is as intriguing as it has been in years. Every team carries its own brand of charisma, and each has its vulnerabilities.
– Kevin Arnovitz, for ESPN.com
Latest posts by Patrick James (see all)
- Let’s watch Blake Griffin dunk on Aron Baynes three times in a quarter – April 20, 2015
- Clippers sign Jordan Hamilton to 10-day contract – February 24, 2015
- Last Call: Brooklyn Nets 102, Los Angeles Clippers 100 – February 2, 2015