Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves
6:30 p.m. PST
December 22, 2013
FOX Prime Ticket
1. With so much talent on the roster, why are the Wolves below .500?
Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves, (@steventurous): In a word: consistency. Coach Rick Adelman alludes to it all the time, but their main problem now is not figuring out who they are but rather going out and being that every night. For every first quarter that blows another team out of the water, there’s a lull that comes later in the game or a future first quarter waiting where they let the other team score 30-plus. The new hotness to refer to for them is that in spite of being ranked 12th in offensive efficiency, they’re 28th in field goal percentage. You want another unusual mark of inconsistency, specifically with their roller coaster of a bench? J.J. Barea is in three out of the top four three-man lineups in terms of point differential per 100 possessions. He’s also in the three out the four worst three-man lineups by the same metric. This team needs to get on the same page somehow.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): The bench. Chase Budinger is hurt. J.J. Barea is having a down year. Derrick Williams didn’t make any sense. Dante Cunningham never gets to the free-throw line. There’s just no help at all coming off the bench and because of that, the Wolves have played to lower standards than you might expect just from looking at their starting lineup.
Davis Vo, (@davisvo): Bad luck. With so much talent in a loaded Western Conference, there will be some teams that are going to miss out on some easy wins against the Eastern Conference teams. They’ve also been on the wrong side of close games. As it stands, the Wolves’ point differential stands at +3.1, which is good for seventh best in the West.
2. What is the better front court for the future? Jordan and Griffin or Pekovic and Love?
McPherson: This is a tough one. I feel like if I say Jordan/Griffin, I’m falling into a “grass is always greener” mentality where I’m undervaluing what the Wolves have because I’ve watched them for so long and have a pretty clear sense of the limitations of Pek/Love, whereas I see far more of the highlights of Jordan/Griffin and less of the everyday stuff. I guess I can’t see Pek getting that much better — at 27, he pretty much is who we think he is, although I don’t see him going downhill. Every other player here likely has more room to improve. Plus, deep down in my dark heart I love dunks more than competent hook shots, so I’ll go Jordan/Griffin.
Katz: We had this discussion on a ClipperBlog Live at the start of the season. D.J. Foster and Andrew Han said Jordan and Griffin. I disagreed. Now, I’ve pulled a 180. There just isn’t really a conceivable way that Love and Pekovic can anchor a top-seven defense. Griffin and Jordan can. And because of that, the Clippers’ frontcourt is probably one that is more likely to carry a team through the playoffs.
Vo: Jordan and Griffin. Love is the best player of the four and Pekovic is a solid center, but the Jordan-Griffin duo have a higher ceiling on defense because of their athleticism. DeAndre Jordan is easily the best rim protector right now among the four, and offensively, that Blake guy is no slouch either.
3. What’s the most important matchup in this one?
McPherson: Both these teams like to run (Clippers are sixth and Wolves seventh in fast break points — although they both score 16.1 per game), but the Wolves don’t like to run backwards, because they’re giving up the sixth most fast break points to opponents while the Clippers give up the third fewest. So Lob City doesn’t have any outlet malls. I was talking to Corey Brewer for a post on outlet passes and he said, “The Clippers are great about getting back. Chris Paul is making sure he doesn’t want to give up the outlet pass and Jared Dudley, he never goes to the glass, he always gets back, so it’s tougher to get it.” Thus, I think the most important matchups will be whichever ones happen in transition that let one team get out there. If you see the Wolves getting buckets in transition, they have a chance. If it’s the Clippers who are running it down their throat while getting back, it will be a long night for Minnesota.
Katz: Rick Adelman vs. Chris Paul. It’s going to be interesting to see how Adelman goes about defending Paul. Does he stick with Rubio, who has frequently been benched for fourth quarters, the whole time? If Barea ends up playing in the fourth quarter, does Corey Brewer come over to provide some length on defense? Ultimately, containing the Clippers’ offense is containing Chris Paul. So Adelman might have to get creative if Rubio is having one of his off nights.
Vo: DeAndre Jordan vs. Nikola Pekovic. Pekovic is a big body who bullies his way into paint points at a decent volume. Jordan’s length should be able to bother Pekovic, but if Jordan gets into early foul trouble, the Clippers could have some trouble rebounding. A few extra points and rebounds here and there, and that could be your ballgame.