Scouting Report: Wolves vs. Clippers

Wolves (19-19) vs. Clippers (22-13) - 7 PM Target 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 finished their four-game road trip by going 2-2 on the West Coast and maintained their .500 record heading home to Target Center. Tonight, Minnesota opens up a four-game homestand against a Los Angeles Clippers team they’ve fared well against so far in 2011-12.

The Wolves host the Clippers at 7 p.m. tonight, and in the process they’ll look to win their third straight game against Los Angeles this season. If they do, they’ll win their 20th game for the first time since the 2008-09 season and will eclipse .500 for the third time this winter.

Minnesota beat the Clippers and the Trail Blazers on their most recent road trip, using efficient offensive performances in each game to pull away in the fourth quarters of each matchup. The Wolves also lost to the Lakers and Suns during that stretch thanks to inconsistent performances, particularly in the third quarters of each of those games.

Still, the Wolves return home tonight with an even record and sit two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot. They’ll look to take advantage of their day off yesterday while the Clippers needed overtime to beat Houston on Sunday night, edging the Rockets 105-103 on the road.

Bench played big in L.A.

Trying to replicate the team’s bench dominance from their 109-97 win over the Clippers on Feb. 28 would be a stretch, but Minnesota did pull away in that contest thanks to the strong play from their reserves. The Wolves’ bench outscored L.A.’s reserves 72-11 in that contest, led by forwards Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams each scoring 27 points on a combined 20-of-25 shooting. Williams in particular is beginning to show the same type of aggressive play he used to dominate the Pac 10 as a sophomore at Arizona. He’s scored in double figures in four of the past five games—he didn’t hit 10 points in any of the seven games before this stretch—and is averaging 14.5 points 55.5 percent shooting since the All-Star Break.

Key matchup: Point guard play

Wolves Minute with John Focke

Wolves rookie guard Ricky Rubio had a breakout first quarter against the Trail Blazers on Saturday, dishing off 10 of his 12 assists in the contest in the first period. It was his first double-digit assist game since collecting 14 on Feb. 7 against Sacramento. Rubio had nine last time around against the Clippers, and he combined with JJ Barea and Luke Ridnour the Wolves’ trio of point guards compiled 18 total assists against L.A. Meanwhile, Clippers All-Star Chris Paul scored 27 points last time out against Minnesota. Paul and power forward Blake Griffin combined for 57 of the team’s 97 points on Feb. 28, and Paul’s ability to make shots and distribute the basketball will be important to L.A.’s chances of winning tonight. Paul had 28 points and 10 assists on Sunday night at Houston.

Love’s big night

Minnesota snapped a losing streak in Portland that dated back to 2005 on Saturday—a stretch that dated back to forward Kevin Love’s sophomore year in high school. Love helped change Minnesota’s fortunes at the Rose Garden by scoring 42 points and adding 10 rebounds in the team’s 122-110 victory over the Blazers. He’ll look to keep that going tonight against the Clippers as he faces off against fellow All-Star power forward Blake Griffin. Love’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer on Jan. 20 lifted Minnesota to a come-from-behind, 101-98 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center, but on Feb. 28 Love suffered a rib injury and did not play much of the second half. Griffin finished with 30 points in the teams’ last meeting, but 18 of those came in the first quarter. In the remaining three, the Wolves’ help defense seemed to keep Griffin in check, and in the process Minnesota remained close heading into the fourth quarter and pulled away in the final 12 minutes.

Webster breaking out

Wolves guard Martell Webster is continuing to provide a spark off the bench for the Timberwolves. Webster enters tonight’s game shooting 66 percent from the field in the four games since the All-Star Break, including going 7-of-10 for 21 points on Saturday night against Portland. Webster is providing energy on both ends of the court, picking up timely rebounds and is helping provide extra depth to coach Rick Adelman’s rotation at the shooting guard and small forward positions. Webster, who missed much of the first half of the season while recovering from back surgery, looks like he’s feeling more and more comfortable on the court as the team heads into the second half.

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