Scouting Report: Wolves at Clippers

Wolves (17-17) at Clippers (20-11) - 9:30 PM Staples Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North
Where to Listen: 830 AM WCCO

*Get your questions on the radio airwaves during halftime! Just tweet questions to @WolvesRadio and listen to the halftime show hosted by John Focke on WCCO 830 AM.

The Timberwolves were well-represented over All-Star Weekend in Orlando as forward Kevin Love and rookies Derrick Williams and Ricky Rubio all participated in the festivities. Now it’s back to work, and the Wolves begin a rigorous stretch of four straight games on the West Coast and 13 of their next 18 games away from Target Center.

It starts in Los Angeles, where Minnesota will face the Clippers tonight at Staples Center. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m.

The Clippers are coming off a 103-95 home win against Denver, which snapped a two-game losing streak. They are 3-3 in their last six games. The Wolves enter tonight having climbed back to .500 at the All-Star Break by winning four of its last five games. Most recently Minnesota beat Utah with a buzzer-beater by guard Luke Ridnour on Wednesday at Target Center, when Ridnour’s floater at the buzzer capped off a rally from 16 points down in the fourth to beat the Jazz 100-98.

Last meeting

The last time the Clippers and Wolves met was a memorable one for Minnesota. Love’s 3-pointer as time expired handed the Timberwolves a 101-98 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center on Jan. 20. Ricky Rubio hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left to tie the game at 98-98. The game was methodical and almost exclusively played in a half-court offensive set—the teams combined for 16 total fast break points in the game, while Minnesota held a 46-24 points in the paint advantage. The victory ended a four-game losing streak at Staples Center. It was a rare feat to beat L.A. at home, where the Clippers are 12-4 this season.

Key matchup: Griffin vs. Love

Wolves Minute with John Focke

Love and L.A. power forward Blake Griffin spent much of the All-Star Weekend festivities enjoying the atmosphere together. The pair, who are friends off the court, mirrored one another on the All-Star stat sheet: Love finished with 17 points and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes of play, while Griffin—who started for the West—finished with 22 points and 8 boards in 31 minutes. Tonight, they’ll face one another for the second time this season. On Jan. 20, Griffin finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Love compiled 17 points, 14 boards and knocked down the game-winning 3-pointer. In watching both play, Griffin is a high-flying, aggressive finisher who puts on a show when he leaves his feet. Love, who leads the league in double-doubles and also won the Foot Locker 3-Point Contest in Orlando, can produce both in the paint and outside and is revered for his consistency and his versatile game.

“He’s having an unbelievable year, now I guess in his fourth year,” Griffin said of Love. “He’s somebody I have to compete with, and it’s great for me because he’s obviously a really well-rounded player. It’s fun—it’s a battle every time we play.”

First look at CP3

The last time the Wolves faced L.A. the Clippers were without point guard Chris Paul, who missed five games during that stretch with a strained hamstring. The Clippers made up for his absence with Chauncey Billups and Mo Williams combining for 45 points. Billups has since suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon. Paul, an All-Star, is an elite point guard who is fourth in the NBA with 8.6 assists per game. He’s just ahead of Rubio, who is fifth in the league with 8.4 assists a night. This first-time matchup will be intriguing, as both Rubio and Paul have the rare ability to find open teammates with flashy, highlight reel passes. With Paul lobbing to Griffin and Rubio’s arsenal of athleticism surrounding him, look for some high-flying plays tonight.

Defensively, the two could be game-changers. Rubio leads the league in total steals with 80, while Paul is tied for sixth with 59. Rubio is second in the NBA with 2.4 steals per game, while Paul is third at 2.3.

Inside presence

Last time out, the Wolves held a distinct advantage at the center position as Darko Milicic had a breakout game with 22 points and 7 rebounds, while L.A.’s DeAndre Jordan finished with just 2 points and 11 boards. Since then, Milicic has given way to new starting center Nikola Pekovic, who over 13 games in February is averaging 17.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per night. Jordan on the year is averaging 8.0 points and 9.0 rebounds in 29.1 minutes of play. He’s third in the league with 80 blocks this season.

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