Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves
5:00 p.m. PST
March 31, 2014
FOX Prime Ticket
1. Who has had the better year? Blake Griffin or Kevin Love?
William Bohl, A Wolf Among Wolves, (@BreaktheHuddle): The diplomatic answer? They’re both wonderful. At risk of being called a homer, though, I’ll say Love. He’s got a higher true shooting percentage, and his rebounding and assist rates are also superior to Griffin’s. His average (at best) defense is a fair critique, but no one’s done more with less of a supporting cast than Kevin Love.
Steve McPherson, A Wolf Among Wolves, (@steventurous): If we judge based on numbers, I think it’s Love. Across the board, he’s been better whether you’re looking at points, rebounds, assists or any of the advanced stats, where Love has a 27.5 PER to Griffin’s 23.8. But if you’re talking about who’s going to look back on this year and deem it a success, the answer is certainly Griffin. I’m reasonably certain Love would trade all his numbers for a playoff berth.
Fred Katz, (@FredKatz): Griffin. It’s funny, because these are the two best power forwards in the game, and yet, their styles are so contrasting. Love is wonderful, but at this point, Blake’s defense is far better (though Love is an overly criticized defender). Love may have mastered his peak skills more (shooting, outlet passing), but Griffin has a greater array of things he can do. His handle, transition game and athleticism just barely put him over the top. Just barely.
2. Who has had the better year? Nikola Pekovic or DeAndre Jordan?
Bohl: Jordan leads the league in rebounding, is third in blocks and has earned the trust of Doc Rivers to stay on the floor in crunch time. Last season, Jordan played 148 fourth-quarter minutes; this season, he’s at 503. Pekovic’s been good, but Jordan’s all-around improvement trumps Pek’s consistency.
McPherson: This is more clear cut. While Pekovic has been solid, he also struggled early and is dogged by his inability to be a go-to option at the end of games. To wit: Jordan is shooting 71.4 percent in the restricted area in the fourth quarters of games; Pekovic is averaging 57.7 percent. Couple that with what are clearly routine injury problems that will mean he misses around 20 games and DAJ clearly gets the nod.
Katz: DeAndre Jordan. Oh no, now I sound like a Clippers homer. Oh well. Pekovic is perfectly solid, but again, it comes down the defense, where DJ excels and Pek…does not. Jordan is on the verge of becoming the second player ever to lead the NBA in rebounding and field-goal percentage. Who was the first? Wilt Chamberlain. His 2013-14 season is going to have pretty good company when all is said and done.
3. The Wolves have a top-seven point differential in the West. Why are they so far removed from the playoffs?
Bohl: Their inability to succeed in close games (4-12 in games decided by four points or fewer) is the primary culprit. Inexplicable losses at home to bad teams (Sacramento, New York, etc) also hurt. Finally, their propensity to go isolation on offense in crunch time leads to poor looks at the basket, and their weaknesses on defense leave them unable to compensate on the other end.
McPherson: Simply put, they haven’t closed out games, as William notes. The reason for that is thornier, but I think it comes down to a team built on not fouling (lowest opponent free-throw attempts in the league) and getting calls (third-most free-throw attempts in the league). Down the stretch, it’s very hard for a team built that way to tighten up and make a defensive stand. The result? A net rating of +4.5 through the first three quarters and -10.2 in the fourth quarter.
Katz: It’s all just a little off. The Wolves don’t win close games, they don’t execute in crunch time, and Rick Adelman’s game rotations always seem a little inconsistent. Why play J.J. Barea over Ricky Rubio down the stretch if Rubio is supposed to be your future? Everything just seems a little convoluted.