PREGAME REPORT | JANUARY 17, 2013
Tip-off: 5:00 p.m. PST | Target Center | Minneapolis, MN | Game Notes »
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MINNEAPOLIS – Cold weather, opponents in the Western Conference playoff race and the absence of Chris Paul were not enough to halt the Clippers through the first two stops of their three-game road trip.
They out-muscled the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, out-ran the league’s highest scoring team a night later, and on Thursday they look to close out their swing through the Central Time Zone against the ailing Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Clippers (30-9) arrived in snowy Minneapolis early Wednesday evening after staying Houston following Tuesday’s 117-109 victory at Toyota Center. They have won five of their last six, and are sandwiched a game between Oklahoma City and San Antonio in second place in the West.
“When we come out and execute offensively and defensively, it gives us a chance every single game,” Blake Griffin said. “Right now our thing is about winning games and getting good position for the playoffs and home-court advantage and all that.”
Griffin and the Clippers proceed with that goal in mind Thursday against the ailing Timberwolves (16-19), who have been beset by injuries throughout the season, including star Kevin Love’s broken hand that will reportedly keep him sidelined until March. Minnesota assistant coach Terry Porter will coach the team for the sixth consecutive game as Head Coach Rick Adelman cares for his wife, who is hospitalized with an undisclosed illness.
CHRIS PAUL UPDATE
Paul, who has missed two games with a bruised right kneecap, remains a game-time decision for the Clippers. If Paul is unable to play, Eric Bledsoe will once again start at point guard.
At Thursday morning’s shoot-around, Caron Butler said the whole team has made adjustments to playing the last two games without the soon-to-be six-time All-Star. “I think you can rely on Chris so much that with him out you’ve got to really get everybody involved and try not to put too much pressure on E-Bled (Bledsoe). He’s done a great job of keeping the tempo at a pace where everybody’s moving and cutting and making it easy on himself as well as us.”
LAST TIME OUT
Clippers 117, Rockets 109: After facing the defensive-minded Memphis Grizzlies on Monday, the Clippers were forced to turn around and play the league’s top scoring team in the Rockets. Houston’s hot-shooting start and second-quarter lead were decimated by a 25-6 Clipper run out of halftime. Willie Green scored nine of his season-high 15 points in the run and Griffin had seven points and a pair of assists as the Clippers turned a one-point deficit into an 18-point advantage.
“We have versatility,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We just had to find kind of our rhythm a little bit. I was pleased we were only down one at the half because we could’ve been down more with the way we played. I knew we’d come out in the third quarter and play harder and then hopefully make some shots offensively, but overall we got the job done when we needed to.”
Griffin finished with 19 points and a season-high eight assists, while Eric Bledsoe, who started in place of Paul, had 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Clippers super-sub Jamal Crawford scored a game-high and season-high 30 points, including 15 in the fourth quarter to help close out the Rockets. Crawford opened the final period with five consecutive baskets, dropping in a fadeaway over Jeremy Lin, two 3-pointers, a turnaround from the elbow and runner between two defenders.
Mavericks 113, Timberwolves 98: Dallas jumped on the visiting Timberwolves with a 36-point third quarter and even when Minnesota pulled to within nine midway through the fourth, the Mavericks quickly responded with six-straight points to put the game away. It was Minnesota’s fourth loss in a row and seventh in their last 10.
Nikola Pekovic scored 20 points with a dozen rebounds and J.J. Barea had a team-high 21 points off the bench. But the Wolves got just 14 points from their starting backcourt of Luke Ridnour and Alexey Shved, who combined to go 4-for-16 from the field.
O.J. Mayo and Darren Collison, on the contrary, were 15-of-22 combined for 43 points. The duo also played a large role in the Mavericks’ 31-11 advantage in fast-break points.
DeAndre Jordan vs. Nikola Pekovic. When the Timberwolves played the Clippers in Los Angeles on Nov. 28, a six-point Clippers victory that started their historic 17-game winning streak, Jordan and Pekovic actually proved to be a more dynamic (and interesting) matchup than more highly touted Griffin-Love duel. Historically, Jordan has had problems with bigger-bodied centers and while he referred to the 290-pound Pekovic as a “real big dude,” Jordan outplayed him.
Jordan scored 15 points, blocked two shots and grabbed six rebounds, while Pekovic went for 11 points and 10 rebounds, but missed eight of his 13 shots. What makes the matchup most intriguing is the contrast in styles. Pekovic moves around the paint with the force of a tank, while Jordan bounds around with a quickness and athleticism rarely seen from a 6-foot-11 player.
Of late, Jordan has been less of a factor for the Clippers, though, often sitting in the fourth quarter in favor of Lamar Odom. On the other hand, with Love out of the lineup, Pekovic has become the focal point for the Wolves’ offense. Since Jan. 5, the third-year center has topped 18 points or more four times and is averaging 18.8 points and 10.0 rebounds in the last five games.
TWO THINGS TO WATCH
Closing Out the Trip. The Clippers have a chance to sweep their second-straight road trip of three games or longer. But they have to avoid the kind of letdown that plagued them Saturday against Orlando. It’s telling that the Clippers have bounced back from disappointing stretches several times this season.
“If you go all the way back to when we won six in a row and then lost four in a row, people were like, ‘What’s going on out there?’” Crawford said. “We bounced back from that and won 17 in a row, lost a couple and now we’re playing really good basketball again. For us, I think we’ve got to have some resolve and something to draw from. I think that what happened earlier in the season will help us in the long run.”
Points Off Turnovers. On Tuesday the Clippers showed why they lead the league in points off turnovers with 21.5 points per game. They converted 16 Rockets miscues into 31 points.
Butler said he got treatment Wednesday after feeling some discomfort in his foot after the Rockets game. He participated in shoot-around and said he will be “fine” for Thursday’s game… The Clippers are 4-3 against the Wolves since Griffin’s rookie season… Shved ranks second among NBA rookies in assists… The Timberwolves are 0-8 when scoring less than 90 points… Minnesota is 30th in the NBA in 3-point percentage (29.7%) and the Clippers are 18-2 when they shoot a better 3-point percentage than their opponent… Griffin has made 14 of his last 17 free throws.
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|CHRIS PAUL BOBBLEHEAD GIVEAWAY|
When: January 22 vs. Oklahoma City
The first 18,000 fans in attendance will receive a Chris Paul Bobblehead courtesy of State Farm