GAMEDAY REPORT: CLIPPERS VS. TIMBERWOLVES - 11/20/13
Game #12 | November 20, 2013
Target Center | Minneapolis, MN
MINNEAPOLIS – Even after he’s struggled shooting the ball over the last two weeks, and through three quarters Wednesday, Chris Paul managed to put it all behind him for Wednesday’s stretch run.
After missing seven of his first 10 shots, Paul took over the game, scoring on three-straight possessions to give the Clippers a seven-point lead with less than three minutes to go, setting an NBA record in the process.
Paul’s fourth-quarter brilliance along with another stellar game from Blake Griffin and 16 points from Jamal Crawford helped the Clippers stave off the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second time in nine days. They won by two last week in L.A. and then, 102-98, Wednesday at Target Center.
Paul became the first player in NBA history to record at least 10 points and 10 assists in 12-straight games to start a season. He had 20 points, 11 assists, six rebounds and four steals.
“We’re all competitive,” Paul said, “and as a leader of the team, me and Blake, that’s what it is: time to win.”
Paul entered the game shooting 36.4 percent in his previous four games. He erupted in the fourth, scoring 13 points in a row for the Clippers (8-4) and 16 of their final 21.
“It’s like you can always count on him,” said Griffin, who had 20 points, 10 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. “No matter how he’s played through three quarters or three and a half quarters or whatever it is, you know he’s going to come up with big plays, whether it’s assists, steals, scoring, whatever it is.”
This time Paul used his scoring to capture the game. He entered the fourth quarter with just four points and when he strode onto the court with 7:18 to go and the Clippers ahead by 11, the Timberwolves (7-6) rolled off eight-straight points. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers promptly called timeout. Paul described what happened next.
“When our group came back in to start the fourth, they went on a quick [8-0] run and Doc called a timeout and asked me what I was waiting on,” Paul said. “We came out and he drew up a play for me. I threw the ball to J.J. and got it back and saw Rubio on the ground and I made a three. I finally saw the ball go through the net.”
The first 3-pointer went through the net and so did six of his next seven shots. J.J. Redick, who added 15 points, made three of the team’s final four free throws and Griffin made a jumper off an assist from Paul to score remainder of the Clippers’ 21 points in the final 5:19.
As much as Paul starred in “winning time,” it was Griffin that helped the Clippers maintain a small level of comfort on the scoreboard in the second half. He scored 14 of the team’s 25 points in the third quarter and outplayed fellow All-Star Kevin Love (10 points on 2-of-14 shooting with 12 rebounds, eight assists and five turnovers) throughout the night.
“Blake played the total game tonight,” Rivers said. “When we struggled for points, he started scoring. We needed him all night to defend and keeping those two monsters off the glass is a full day’s work.”
The Clippers were out-rebounded by the Wolves, 45-43, but seemed control the boards when it mattered. DeAndre Jordan, the league’s third leading rebounder, had a dozen, including two back-taps on the offensive glass to keep possessions alive in the fourth quarter.
Over the final three minutes, the teams exchanged points on multiple possessions, which differed entirely from most of the previous three and a half quarters. They both had lengthy runs in the first half. The Clippers scored the first 12 points of the game and Minnesota went on a 10-0 run in the middle of the quarter. The Clippers started the second on an 11-0 run, and the Wolves scored 22 of the next 26. But even after Minnesota grabbed a 46-39 lead, the Clippers had one more spurt in them, scoring seven successive points to end the half including a jump hook by Griffin, a steal and layup by Paul and a 3-pointer by Crawford in the right corner.
They were equal at halftime, and the Wolves opened the third with another truncated run that Rivers quickly ended with a timeout.
“I wanted to remind them that the second half had started,” Rivers said. “We weren’t playing with any pace and we needed to be reminded of that. We’re really good when we have pace. Right now, our defense is really coming on, but we’re not good enough to not have pace defensively yet. There will be some point in the season where we’ll be able to win either way, but right now we have to keep our pace.”
From there, the Clippers, as would be expected in a game with so many bizarre momentum swings, eventually reasserted themselves in the third by scoring 10 consecutive points.
Those spurts stood out to Paul.
“I was like, ‘Fellas, we’re going on a 10-0 run and they’re on a 9-0 run,’” he said. “I said we needed to be a little bit more consistent. It’s a crazy game. At the end of the day, we just want to be up one point at the end.”
Filling in for an injured Matt Barnes, who did not make the trip due to a left eye contusion, rookie Reggie Bullock made his first two shots, both 3-pointers. His basket at the 1:16 mark of the first quarter was his first-career 3-point make…
The Clippers made seven of their 10 shots to start game, but went 11-of-32 in the remainder of the first half… It is the first game this season the Clippers have won when scoring fewer than 104 points… The Clippers and Timberwolves are two of the top five scoring teams in the first quarter in the league, but only managed 24 points apiece in the first quarter Wednesday… Crawford is 31-of-68 (45.6 percent) from 3-point range… Reigning Western Conference Player of the Week, Griffin has totaled at least 20 points and 10 rebounds in five consecutive games and nine times in the last 11… The Clippers bench outscored Minnesota, 32-18. They have held a +27 margin over the Wolves’ reserves in two games this season… The Clippers owned a 25-15 advantage in transition points. They moved to 4-0 when scoring 20 points or more on the break…
THEY SAID IT
DeAndre Jordan: “I thought it was our defense more so than our offense. We got multiple stops in a row which got us easy buckets in transition. We’ve just got to be able to play that way throughout the game and not just in spurts. They did the same thing and I’m sure they’re saying the same, that if they could have played that way the whole game and gotten stops then they could’ve won the game.”
Clippers guard Chris Paul on significance of breaking Magic Johnson’s NBA record of at least 10 points and 10 assists in 12-straight games to start a season:
“It’s huge because Magic is a mentor of mine. He’s someone that I look up to. His basketball credentials are unbelievable, so to be mentioned in anything with him is huge. It’s an honor, a privilege.”
Clippers guard Jamal Crawford on his 3-point shooting:
“I worked on it. I was trying to find out how I could be more effective with Chris I knew we’d play together more this year. With him and Blake, I think those guys attract so much attention, being a catch-and-shoot guy you can play with anybody. So, I wanted to add that to my arsenal along with all the other stuff.”
Clippers forward Blake Griffin on Chris Paul’s performance:
“I guess it’s sad, but we’re kind of used to it now. I guess it becomes routine, but it’s something we rely on every game. You can always count on him.”
Clippers head coach Doc Rivers on the way teams exchanged runs throughout the first half:
“It was Disneyland. That’s how you felt, like you were on this roller coaster.”
Clippers rookie Reggie Bullock on making the first 3-pointer of his NBA career:
“It definitely felt really good, knowing that I missed like my last 100 attempts. But at the same time, I was just confident coming here and being able to know that Matt [Barnes] was out and I would be able to get some minutes and produce at that position.”
By: Eric Patten | Follow @EricPatten
MINNEAPOLIS – The schedule won’t let up.
After playing the league’s toughest schedule through 11 games, the Clippers (7-4) hit the road for a pair of rematches against teams they beat a week ago. The back-to-back starts Wednesday night at Target Center against the Minnesota Timberwolves (7-5), a team the Clippers beat 109-107 in L.A. on Nov. 11. They fly to Oklahoma City after the game for their second game of the season against the Thunder.
“I want to win all of them,” Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said. “I am greedy. I would never go on the road and say, ‘Hey, guys, let’s split these games.’ Really, I think we should win them all. And I think that’s how we should start thinking.
“They’re going to be hard games. You’ve got to have the mindset and the mental toughness that you can go out and win two games. Winning’s hard. It should be hard. If you want to be what we want to be, teams are going to attack you and you have to be ready for it.”
The Timberwolves are on the second night of a back-to-back of their own and are expected to arrive home late after falling, 104-100, in the final minute to the Wizards on Tuesday. It’s the third time in the last eight days Minnesota has lost by four points or less. They are 0-4 on the season in close games.
The Clippers were one of those teams, and they are the first of the group the Wolves have gotten a second shot at.
“It’s a tough back-to-back, but nobody’s going to feel sorry for us,” Paul said. “Minnesota’s been tough this season. Minnesota had that tip back to go to overtime. They feel like they let one get away, so they’re going to be ready for us.”
Rivers thinks the fact that the teams are playing again in such close proximity makes the game even more interesting.
“It makes it more competitive,” he said. “They were going to be competitive anyway. Everybody knows what everybody wants. Minnesota wants to be a contender, Oklahoma City wants to be one, we want to be one, so clearly it would be competitive if we split them up. But when you play a team one week and then play them the next week at their place, they’re going to come at you.”
Chris Paul vs. Ricky Rubio
They’re the top two in assists and steals. But still much separates the flashy young Spaniard from the sage point maestro in his prime. Obviously, Paul is an All-Star and perennial MVP candidate and Rubio is still finding his place in the league after missing half of his rookie season with a torn ACL and returning in the second half of 2012-13. Of all the dividing factors, it is Paul’s ability to hurt the Wolves as a scorer and a passer that will likely be the difference in the matchup. Last week, Paul had 21 points to Rubio’s five. In the four meetings all-time between Paul and Rubio, they have virtually had the same number of assists. However, Paul has outscored Rubio 21.3 points per game to 4.3. Rubio is shooting just 20.7 percent in his career against the Clippers and has routinely found himself in foul trouble guarding Paul.
Even with Rubio’s shooting woes (34.0 percent from the field this season) he remains a threat as a playmaker, ball-handler and passer, just ask rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who Rubio nutmegged in a preseason game.
With a double-double against Rubio Monday, Paul would set the NBA record with 12-straight games of at least 10 points and 10 assists to start the season.
THINGS TO WATCH
1. Who’s on first? While the Clippers have struggled of late getting off to fast starts, falling behind by double-digits in the first half in three-straight games. The Wolves are the opposite. They are the league’s top scoring team in the first quarter (32.8 points per game) and have given up large leads. They did so on Tuesday in Washington, allowing the Wizards to come all the way back from a 16-point deficit. While the Clippers say they would like to start faster, the Wolves would like to finish better.
“We keep putting ourselves in holes,” Clippers Matt Barnes said. “Then we fight back. But sometimes when you’re playing against good teams, you put yourself in the hole and you can’t quite get over that hump.”
2. Reserve corps. In the first meeting the Clippers outscored the Timberwolves bench, 40-17. With both teams in the midst of a hectic schedule the benches should again come into focus. That could be a problem for Minnesota. They own the worst scoring bench in the league (23.1 points per game), due in small part to the absence of Chase Budinger, who recently returned to practice but is not expected to play against the Clippers.
The Clippers, on the other hand, are 15th in scoring and after a slow start to the year from a reserve group that has been without Barnes at times, including again this trip due to an eye contusion, they are starting to generate some quality stretches together.
“We’re definitely not where we want to be, but we’re better,” Jamal Crawford said. “If we can draw on what we’ve done the last few games I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Crawford leads the team in bench scoring, but had his streak of 10-straight games of scoring 13 points or more off the bench snapped on Monday. Keep an eye on Byron Mullens. As he continues to get comfortable he could provide valuable shooting from the stretch four position. Likewise, Rivers said Mullens needs to continue improving his defensive recognition, which will certainly be a challenge inside if by chance he gets matched up against Nikola Pekovic or Kevin Love.
3. Break time. The Clippers are seventh the league in transition points (16.8 per game), but as much as they want to get out on the break they’ll have to also contend with Corey Brewer running the wing and Love’s outlet passes. Rivers joked prior to the last game that Love should be featured on Trent Dilfer’s “Dimes” segment on ESPN’s NFL coverage. Lo and behold it actually was. The Wolves and Clippers are both predicated on running and scoring 107-plus points per game, which could lead to some fireworks Wednesday.
Barnes is not with the Clippers on their two-game road trip due to a left eye contusion. He sustained the injury in Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies when he was inadvertently hit by Zach Randolph as the two chased down a loose ball… The Clippers have won six games in a row against the Timberwolves, including three at Target Center… Blake Griffin has 98 career 20-10 games, one behind Love for the most in the NBA since 2010-11…
THEY SAID IT
Darren Collison: “We have to focus on playing a very, very tough team in Minnesota. They’re playing well right now and they’ll want to get back us from last home game.”
LAST TIME OUT