GameDay Blog: Wolves vs. Clippers - Jan. 17, 2013

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Final: This one is a wrap here at Target Center. Another night of injuries, with Pek and Shved leaving the game in the second half, and the Wolves fall to the Clippers 90-77. More analysis, photos, postgame interviews and highlights to come on Timberwolves.com. Wolves led by Ridnour's 21 points, 15 from AK and 10 from D-Will. Blake Griffin scored 20, Crawford had 22, Butler had 12 and Barnes had 10. LAC 90, MIN 77

Q4 3:08: Well, now Alexey Shved has a rolled ankle. He left for the locker room immediately, and he hasn't returned yet. We'll update that one when we get a chance. Meanwhile, the Wolves are down 13 with 3:08 left in the fourth. This one is slipping away, and the Wolves continue to lose man power to the training room. LAC 86, MIN 73

Q4 5:51: Just under six minutes to go in this one, and the Wolves trail by 10 despite shooting 37 percent from the field on the night. The Clippers have kept the Wolves in this one thanks to 18 turnovers leading to 18 points, and they're also shooting 15-of-23 from the free-throw line. But Minnesota needs a spark here coming down the stretch, and they'll need to do it without Pek who hasn't returned to the sidelines. LAC 81, MIN 71

Q4 8:31: The Wolves are trying to hold on here as the Clippers opened up the fourth quarter by taking a nine-point lead. Coming out of this timeout we've got a critical juncture of this game. Minnesota needs to responds with a run that can get them in position here. They've got to close down the paint (LAC 40-26 edge in the paint) and extra possessions (LAC 20-13 edge in second chance points). They're taking the floor out of the timeout with Barea, Shved, D-Will, DC and Stiemsma. LAC 77, MIN 68

End Q3: We've got ourselves an intriguing fourth quarter coming up as the Wolves trail by five at the end of the third. they trailed 66-63 moments ago before Jamal Crawford hit a pair of free throws to extend the lead with 4.9 left on the clock. Minnesota could be without Pek the rest of the way, who left the game and is questionable with a right quad contusion. They've combated that injury by going small in the waning moments of the third--including Barea, Ridnour, Shved, D-Will and DC on the court together. It will be interesting to see how small they go in the fourth. Meanwhile, Rubio has played 23 minutes tonight. If they stick to that 28-minute range, it means he doesn't have a ton of time to work with. If they expand his minutes, we could be getting above 30 for the first time this season. Ridnour is keeping the Wolves in this game. He's got a season-high 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting and has hit three of the Wolves' 4 3-pointers. LAC 68, MIN 63

Q3 2:51: More bad news from the injury front for the Wolves tonight, as Nikola Pekovic just left the game a few minutes ago after committing a hard foul on Blake Griffin. He was limping noticeably favoring his right leg. Greg Stiemsma checked in to replace him. That's a big blow for this Wolves squad. Although he was just 1-of-8 from the field, he had nine rebounds and was a physical presence helping contain DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin on defense. You also hope that he's not going to miss too much time with the injury, if at all, after tonight. More updates to come. LAC 63, MIN 57

Q3 6:26: Blake Griffin has started settling for midrange jumpers here in the third quarter, and that just isn't his game. It's been beneficial for the Wolves, however, as he's been missing those jumpers and giving the Wolves a chance to bridge the gap on the scoreboard. During the current timeout Minnesota has cut the lead to 55-49 midway through the third. Rubio just had a nice cut to the basket for a lay-up off an AK pass, and AK just added a basket of his own in the paint to make it a six-point game. LAC 55, MIN 49

Halftime: The Wolves battled in that half, cutting the Clippers' lead to four as we head into the break. It wasn't easy. Minnesota trailed by as many as 12 and shot 28 percent from the field for much of the first 14 minutes. But they put together a run late in the second quarter and made it a game as we get set for the third. Ridnour has been the story for Minnesota, scoring 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting. AK has nine, and D-Will has six. For the Clippers, Griffin has 10, Crawford has 12 and Turiaf has eight. Minnesota now has the task of putting together a solid third quarter--it's been a tough 12 minute stretch for the Wolves over the last few weeks, but a solid third quarter would put the Wolves in good position to pull off this win at home. One key to the second half will be handling the points in the paint--Minnesota is being outscored 32-16 in the paint so far tonight. LAC 47, MIN 43

Q2 2:22: Minnesota got the run they were looking for here, as they've cut the Clippers lead to five despite L.A. leading by as many as 12 here in the first half. Luke Ridnour just connected on a 3-pointer from the corner off a Rubio assist. He's 2-of-3 from distance tonight and 4-of-6 overall. Crucial couple minutes here as we head into halftime for the Wolves. LAC 44, MIN 39

Q2 5:22: The Clippers keep rolling here, getting big bench production while the Wolves have struggled since their starters left the game. Minnesota has gotten four points from DC and two more from Barea off the bench, but the Clippers' reserves are outscoring Minnesota's 23-6 right now. Jamal Crawford has nine off the bench, and Ronny Turiaf has eight of his own. Those two alone are shooting 8-of-12 from the field. Andrei Kirilenko has been active tonight, shooting 4-of-6 with a 3-pointer and has a team-high nine points. Pek is checking in as we resume play, and he needs to get going offensively tonight. He's 0-for-5 from the field tonight. LAC 42, MIN 32

Q2 8:42: This one is starting to get out of hand right now, as the Clippers opened up the quarter in transition and put together an 8-2 run in the first 3 1/2 minutes. Ronny Turiaf just collected six quick points in three minutes, the majority coming in transition, and the Wolves are starting to let L.A. run the floor the way they said they didn't want to in pregame. It's early, but Minnesota needs a quick run here to get back in this game. LAC 35, MIN 24

End Q1: Not the most effective first quarter for the Wolves on the offensive end. They're shooting 8-of-25 from the field and haven't registered a point off their bench yet (Barea and DC have checked in late in the first) but as time expired the Wolves trailed by seven and Pek is headed to the line. Ridnour has been the bright spot tonight. Playing off the ball--where coach Rick Adelman has had high praise for the veteran guard--he's 3-of-5 so far with seven points and two assists. Rubio has a pair of assists, while D-Will has six points and Kirilenko has five points. For the Clippers, Griffin has eight points, Green has six and Butler has five. Pek hit both free throws to make it a five-point game. One area to watch: The Clippers have a 20-8 advantage in the paint so far tonight. LAC 27, MIN 22

Q1 2:21: Wolves are turning some defense into offense here over the last couple minutes. Luke Ridnour forced a turnover that led to points moments ago, and in the Clippers' next possession Derrick Williams showed nice interior defense by picking up a block, Pekovic fed Rubio on the fast break who hit Ridnour for a quick lay-up. Minnesota is on a 6-0 run and have cut the Clippers lead to 19-17. Wolves opening up the bench here as DC and Barea check in for Rubio and AK. LAC 19, MIN 17

Q1 4:53: Rubio has played his first seven minutes as a starter, and though he's 0-for-3 from the floor it does seem like he does have a renewed sense of confidence out there. He came out leading the fast break, drew an offensive foul on a Clippers inbound pass and dished out a fast-break assist to Ridnour. But the Wolves have started 4-of-16 from the field, including 0-for-5 from Pekovic down low, and they're trailing by six early on. LAC 15, MIN 9

Starters:
Clippers:
PG-Eric Bledsoe, SG-Willie Green, SF-Caron Butler, PF-Blake Griffin, C-DeAndre Jordan

Timberwolves: PG-Ricky Rubio, SG-Luke Ridnour, SF-Andrei Kirilenko, PF-Derrick Williams, C-Nikola Pekovic

Pregame 6:50 PM: Quick shake up in the lineup tonight, as Wolves guard Ricky Rubio will get his first start of the season. Expecting a warm reception in the pregame introductions. He'll start next to Luke Ridnour. Also, Derrick Williams is getting the start at power forward tonight. It's his first start since starting the first nine games while Kevin Love missed the beginning of the season with his initial broken right hand. Starters and tipoff to come.

Pregame 6:40 PM: Making sure that the Clippers don't get out in transition is a pivotal part of tonight's game, but another crucial aspect is trying to contain the Clippers' athletic and powerful front court, headlined by Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan. Both are guys that can take over a game down low if given the right opportunity, and the Wolves will need to combat that tonight with help defense. Porter joked that the best way to handle Griffin is with three or four guys, but the reality is Minnesota will need to really work together down low to have success against this team. With Chris Paul out, it helps minimizing the damage that CP3-Griffin can do on the pick-and-roll, but this team has more than enough weapons to get the job done as is.

Porter said Pekovic has done a good job in games against Jordan, and he'll be a key factor tonight on both ends of the floor.

"Pek will have to try to create space and do a little shoulder bump here and there, try to create space, try to use pump fakes to his advantage and then find his spots where he can get shots off underneath," Porter said.

As for the transition game, last time against L.A. the Wolves had 20 turnovers that led to 19 points. Porter said Minnesota needs to force the Clippers to set up in the half court and take contested shots tonight. Allowing transition baskets won't isn't going to put the Wolves in position to succeed tonight.

"This is a skilled enough team already in the half court and can score," Porter said. "We have to do our best to minimize those types of easy baskets so to speak."

Pregame 6:15 PM: During Summer League in July, player development coach David Adelman was awfully complimentary of point guard Eric Gordon's play and the type of skill he has already shown as an NBA player, and Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro echoed those comments during pregame tonight at Target Center. It's not often that a young player gets a chance to play with a talent pool that includes Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups, but Bledsoe has done that in L.A. and he's put himself in position to succeed and run the team when both of those veterans are injured like they are tonight.

"He's getting some more minutes that he deserves, but it's just that we're a deep team and we can't always give him those minutes," Del Negro said. "I thought the pace of Eric's game has been tremendous—running the team, controlling the pace of the game as a point guard is obviously vital. He's done a good job of that."

The Clippers have two starters in this year's All-Star Game, the league announced tonight, although Paul is one and will not be available against the Timberwolves. But Blake Griffin is here, and stopping him will be a big key in terms of slowing down the Clippers in transition and limiting half-court lay-ups and lobs. More on that momentary from Wolves coach Terry Porter.

Del Negro said L.A. has made adjustments without Paul and have been able to get guys stepping up in other areas of their game.

"Tonight, there's other challenges," Del Negro said. "We got to come in locked-in, energized, focused on what we have to do. And if we do that, we'll have an opportunity to win."

Del Negro also talked about Rubio, who will likely see increased minutes tonight. He said Rubio has needed to work on his confidence and quickness coming back from major knee surgery.

"Something that severe, it's going to take him a while to get his feet under him," Del Negro said. "You'll see flashes of it once in a while, but he's a competitive kid. He's young. He's just got to give himself some time and work it through."

Pregame 3:00 PM: Greetings from Target Center, where the Timberwolves and Clippers are set to square off tonight on TNT. The Wolves have played the Clippers tough over the past two years, winning three of four a year ago and putting together a strong performance against LAC at Staples Center on Nov. 28, but even as the Clippers battle the injury bug they are playing some of the best basketball in the league at the moment.

Chris Paul has been out the last two games against the Grizzlies and Rockets—both Clippers victories on the road—and it sounds like he won’t play in tonight’s game at Target Center. Wolves coach Terry Porter admits the Clippers have a different look when they are without Paul, particularly how they attack opponents on the pick-and-roll, but they are still dangerous and show great mobility in transition with Eric Bledsoe at the helm. L.A. should have Caron Butler—who has been battling a sore right foot—according to an L.A. Times report.

For the Wolves, it will be interesting to see how they mix things up returning home after a four-game winless road trip. This morning Ricky Rubio had a white jersey on during shootaround—sometimes an indication of a starter’s role—but Porter did not confirm or deny Rubio would be in the starting lineup. The other question is at power forward, where Porter did not say whether or not it will be Dante Cunningham or Derrick Williams getting the starting nod tonight. Both have been solid options for the Wolves, but Cunningham was at his best when he was coming off the bench earlier this season.

One other note is that Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward each were in uniform during shootaround after missing Wednesday due to illness, and they’re scheduled to be available tonight.

Be ready for a show tonight. The Clippers are electric, they’ve got a dynamic front court duo in Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and they’ve got the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year Jamal Crawford coming off the bench. They’re third in the league in points in the paint and fourth in fast break points, so they can get it done in the half court and in transition. And they’re seventh in the league in third quarter scoring (24.9 PPG), a stretch that has given Minnesota problems this season.

With tonight’s game on TNT, tipoff is moved to 7:02 p.m. as opposed to the regular 7:10 p.m. Be ready for tip a few minutes earlier than usual.

Here are a few pregame notes to think about as we get set for tonight:

  • The Wolves lead the series 48-42 and are 29-16 at home. The 48 wins are the most the Wolves have against any opponent. Los Angeles won the series opener this year, 101-95, at STAPLES Center.


  • The Wolves are 10th in the Western Conference, 2 games behind Portland and 2.5 games behind Houston and Utah. Minnesota is 10-5 at Target Center this season and has 9 of its next 12 games at home. The Wolves are 8-0 this season when scoring 100+ points.


  • Minnesota has recorded double-digit rebounding margins in 14 games this season --- they had 10 such games in 2011-12. The Wolves lead the NBA in rebounding differential at +4.72 per game.


  • The Wolves rank 4th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game (25.8) and have allowed the 2nd fewest free throw attempts (19.3). Minnesota has attempted 30+ FTs in a game 13 times this season and allowed less than 20 FTs in a game 16 times.


  • Andrei Kirilenko recently recorded 1000 steals and 2000 assists in his career and became just the 15th player in NBA history to collect 2000+ assists, 1000+ steals and 1000+ blocks for a career.


  • Nikola Pekovic is averaging 19.0 ppg, on 55.0% shooting, and 9.9 rpg over the last 17 games. He has recorded six 20/10 games in the last 12 games and 13 double-doubles overall.


  • J.J. Barea has scored in double-digits in 17 of his last 19 games, averaging 12.8 points and 4.6 assists over that stretch. He has led the Wolves in scoring the past two games.


  • At 30-9, Los Angeles has the 2nd-best record in the NBA and the Western Conference (OKC 31-8). The Clippers are 12-5 on the road.


  • The Clippers rank 1st in the NBA in steals (10.51), 2nd in assists (23.77) and 4th in field goal percentage (.478). Individually, Chris Paul is 2nd in assists (9.7) and 1st in steals (2.62) and DeAndre Jordan in 2nd in field goal percentage (.604)


  • The Clippers reserves are 2nd in the NBA in scoring with 41.6 ppg, led by Jamal Crawford's 16.8 ppg in 37 games off the bench.


  • Matt Barnes has made a 3-pointer in a career-high 16 straight games, the 8th-longest active streak in the NBA. The Clippers are 21-3 this season when Barnes scores 10+ points, 21-1 when he comes off the bench to score 10+ points.


  • Eric Bledsoe has started the last two games, averaging 16.5 ppg, on .523 shooting, 5.0 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 32.5 minutes.



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