Los Angeles Clippers (46-27) @ Minnesota Timberwolves (25-49)
5:00 p.m. PST
March 30, 2016
Fox Prime Ticket
1. Complete this sentence: “Karl-Anthony Towns is the best rookie since…”
Brandon Tomyoy (@dingyu): Anthony Davis. The two compare similarly in terms of Player Efficiency Rating in their first seasons, also matching up very closely in Rebound Rate and Offensive Rating. That said, the real test for Towns will be how he fares in upcoming seasons, as Davis had enormous leaps in his play going from year one to year two. The returns for KAT have been fantastic thus far, though, so the odds are certainly in his favor.
Ben Mesirow (@SemNeb): Actually, I don’t think you have to go back that far – there have been some great rookies lately. It’s fun to talk about KAT and Anthony Davis as the new superhuman big men, but it was actually Damian Lillard who was the unanimous ROY in Anthony Davis’ first year, and he was electric. If you go back down the ROY list, you’ll find a bunch of other players with awesome recent rookie seasons, like Kyrie Irving, who almost pulled off a 50/40/90 as a teenager, and Blake Griffin, who averaged 22 and 12 with a 22 PER in his first year. KAT is going to be a star – if he isn’t one already – and he’s incredibly well suited to the modern game, but I don’t think we need to dust off the history book to find seasons like his.
Michael Shagrin (@mshaggy): Tim Duncan. Both put up a double-doubles average and roughly 20 points per game on field goal percentages well above .500. They each showed flashes of brilliance on the defensive end, but endorsing Towns as part of the Duncan lineage has more to do with the parallel respect each have for their craft than the box score. That’s translated into one of the great basketball careers of all time for Duncan and could very well mean the same for Towns.
2. Was the 67 points from the bench on Monday night a complete anomaly or were there elements of legitimacy to the outburst?
Tomyoy: The biggest anomaly in that performance was the outside shooting, as some losses — at home to Denver and on the road against New Orleans come to mind — show how anemic the second unit’s offense can be when the three-pointer is not falling. What is reassuring, though, is the lower frequency in outside shots that were taken by the team. The offense plays better to the strengths of the second unit when Austin Rivers and Jeff Green are driving towards the basket, and staggering Wesley Johnson into more lineups with Chris Paul give him more of an opportunity to get the ball in better scoring situations than the second unit’s distributors have provided. It also doesn’t hurt when Jamal Crawford goes supernova for two quarters.
Mesirow: Unfortunately I think the outburst was mostly a mirage. The bench’s leading scorers were Crawford, Green, and Rivers, and they each played starter’s minutes, between 26 and 30 apiece, and only Austin Rivers was particularly efficient. It took Crawford ten attempts to make four threes, and he only got to the line once. It’s also worth noting that Jae Crowder was still out for the Celtics, and he would surely have spent time making scoring considerably more difficult for each of those three guys. I’m not complaining about the points, but we’ve seen the bench blast off like this in the past, and as often as not they land with a thud the next week
Shagrin: Anomaly. If the bench is expected to outscore the starters, or even come close to matching them, then you have a problem. Jamal Crawford is always licensed to put up a big night. Austin Rivers is not. If anything, this sort of explosion should become less frequent in the playoffs as the rotation shortens and Blake Griffin accelerates into form. But to get out of the West, the Clippers will need to gun for some unconventional solutions. So maybe that means more Austin Rivers!
3. Hypothetically, the game is on the line, what would you rather: DJ shooting a FT to win it or Ricky Rubio making one from deep?
Tomyoy: Are we talking about a tie game or a one-point deficit? Either way, I’m in favor of DeAndre. It’s not just because of his recent uptick in free throw shooting, which is 50% in March and 49.1% overall since the All-Star break, but because he has two opportunities at the line rather than just one for Rubio. Even in the case that DeAndre only makes a free throw to tie, that still allows the ball to get back into the hands of Chris Paul, which is by no means a bad proposition.
Mesirow: It says a lot about the state of things that I had to think twice about this question –considering whether you’d rather have a presumably contested 24-foot jump shot from a historically bad shooter or a completely unguarded 15-foot set shot from DJ is a little crazy, probability-wise. But a game-winning 3 is an unexpected outcome, great if you get it but more pleasant surprise than assumed result. A Free Throw, on the other hand, is something teams count on, that players really should knock down, and that are psychologically devastating when they don’t fall at the end of a close game. So, my answer: logically and mathematically, I’d rather have DJ at the line. But emotionally? Spare me the torment, please, and just chuck it up there and see if you get lucky, Ricky.
Shagrin: I’ll pick Ricky Rubio in this terrifying Sophie’s choice. If you’re looking strictly at the numbers, DeAndre Jordan is more likely to make any given free throw than Rubio is to make a three pointer. But the story on DJ’s free throw shooting is purportedly a mental one–he hits his freebies at a normal, non-embarrassing clip in practice (they say). So with the game on the line, that anxiety probably becomes even more oppressive, taking his already dreadful conversion rate even deeper into the red.