Scouting Report: Wolves (13-14) at Clippers (19-9) | Dec. 22, 2013

Scouting Report: Wolves (13-14) at Clippers (19-9) | Dec. 22, 2013

 



Timberwolves at Clippers | 8:30 PM — Staples Center

Where to Watch: Fox Sports North Plus

Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM


View Timberwolves Game Notes



The Wolves had a day off in Los Angeles to regroup after dropping a disappointing 104-91 game to the Lakers on Friday Night. Sitting a game under .500, they’ll have a chance to even up their record and this two-game West Coast road trip with another matchup tonight at Staples Center.

But it doesn’t get any easier tonight. This time they’ve got the Clippers—tipoff is set for 8:30 PM CT on Fox Sports North Plus and 830 WCCO-AM.

The Wolves and Clippers traditionally match up well head-to-head together when both teams are healthy, and aside from J.J. Redick’s broken right wrist that should be the case tonight. L.A. is 2-0 against Minnesota this season but won those two games by a combined six points. That includes their Nov. 11 showdown inside Staples Center, when the Wolves climbed back from an 11-point fourth quarter deficit in the final four minutes to have a shot to tie in the end. The series of tip-ins on that final possession didn’t fall, contributing to Los Angeles’ 11-2 home record this season.

The Clippers currently sit fourth in the Western Conference (19-9) and are slowly but surely working out all the wrinkles that come with coaching turnover. Doc Rivers, one of the league’s most respected coaches, took over after an offseason trade sent him from Boston to Southern California. They’ve won four straight and six of seven coming into tonight, and it’s safe to assume this team—which won 50-plus games a year ago predominately on talent and athleticism—will be much more fluid in its schemes as the season progresses.

The Wolves, on the other hand, are still struggling to find consistency—especially on the road. They’re 5-10 away from Target Center this season and are currently 11th in the conference. Minnesota was in a similar situation earlier this week when they dropped a winnable game in Boston and bounced back two days later to beat the streaking Portland Trail Blazers. Tonight, after losing to the Lakers on Friday, Minnesota has a similar opportunity to bounce back.

Last Meeting

The Wolves and Clippers matched up last on Nov. 20 at Target Center, and L.A. improved to 2-0 against Minnesota this year with a 102-98 victory in Minneapolis. It was a spectacle of sorts, because Chris Paul got red-hot in the fourth and finished off the Wolves nearly single-handedly. At one point he scored 12 straight in that frame, and you could tell during some possessions that Paul was going to handle the scoring from wire-to-wire. It was Paul’s 12th straight point-assist double-double to start the year, breaking Magic Johnson’s all-time record. He finished with 20 points and 12 assists.

Meanwhile, the Wolves got 28 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Martin on 11-of-21 shooting, while Nikola Pekovic had 20 points and seven boards. Kevin Love finished the night with 10 points, 12 boards and eight assists—his lowest scoring point total of the season. For the Clippers, Blake Griffin had 20 points and 10 rebounds, Jamal Crawford had 16 points and J.J. Redick had 15 points.

This Week’s Results

The Clippers were 3-0 this week and have enjoyed a nice reprieve from their travel schedule. After playing seven straight games on the road in early December, they returned to L.A. and will play their fourth and final game of this homestand tonight. In their three tilts at Staples Center this week, they picked up a 115-92 win over the Spurs on Monday, a 108-95 win over the Pelicans on Wednesday and a 112-91 win over the Nuggets on Saturday night. It is noteworthy that the Wolves will be getting the Clippers on the tail end of back-to-backs this evening.

The Wolves are 1-2 this week after winning three of four the week before. They started out with a 101-97 loss to the Celtics in Boston, then bounced back to beat Portland 120-109 at home. In that game, the Wolves exploded for 69 first-half points and led by as many as 32 headlined by Kevin Love, who finished with 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists on the night. Minnesota then fell 104-91 to the Lakers on Friday. L.A. wrapped up the game on a 14-2 run to ice the win.

Key Matchup: Blake Griffin vs. Kevin Love

When the first returns for the NBA All-Star ballots came in, Blake Griffin and Kevin Love were sitting about 17,000 votes apart for the third front court starter in the West. Griffin has started the past two All-Star Games at power forward and garners a healthy dose of fan votes each year due to his high-flying play and his aggressive dunks. He is unquestionably one of the top power forwards in the Western Conference, and his style is incredibly fun to watch—especially when he benefits from those smooth pick-and-rolls with Chris Paul. He’s averaging 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game this year.

Love, on the other hand, is having arguably his best season yet. His game contrasts Griffin’s in many ways, where Griffin plays above the rim and at the basket, Love has a scorer’s touch that can range from baby hooks in the paint all the way to being one of Minnesota’s go-to 3-point shooters. And his innate rebounding skills have him in the right place at the right time throughout the game. He’s currently third in the NBA at 25.2 points per game and is first in rebounding at 13.7 boards per night. On top of that, he’s dishing out a career-high 4.2 assists per game, is hitting 82.7 percent of his free throws and connects on a career-high 38.2 percent of his 3-point attempts (he takes 6.5 per game). This matchup is always fun because both Griffin and Love have contrasting but effective styles. Who will have the edge tonight?

Injury Report

The Wolves are still without Ronny Turiaf (elbow) and Chase Budinger (knee), although both are traveling with the team and Budinger was cleared this week to resume full-court practices. There is no timetable on his return, but that’s a big step in getting him back on the floor. For the Clippers, J.J. Redick has a fractured right wrist and is likely out until mid-January, while shooting guard Reggie Bullock (ankle) is questionable tonight against the Wolves and Maalik Wayns (knee) is out indefinitely.

Probable Starters
  Timberwolves Clippers
PG Ricky Rubio Chris Paul
SG Kevin Martin Jamal Crawford
SF Corey Brewer Jared Dudley
PF Kevin Love Blake Griffin
C Nikola Pekovic DeAndre Jordan

 




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