Postgame | Flip Saunders

Wolves Fall to the Clippers in Close Game

Dane Mizutani
Web Editorial Associate

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Wolves coach Flip Saunders had high praise for Clippers players Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan before the game.

“I think right now they're the best players and their respective positions with the way they've been playing.” he said. “Those guys are carrying them and their role players are playing extremely well off those guys.

Saunders clearly knows what he’s talking about.

That dynamic duo was instrumental as the Clippers snuck out of Minneapolis with a 110-105 win over the Wolves on Monday night at Target Center. Paul finished with 26 points and 14 assists while Jordan poured in 12 points and gobbled up 18 rebounds.

Those numbers considered, the most impressive play of the entire night came when Paul nailed a heavily contested jumper over Kevin Garnett with 38 seconds left that essentially put the game on ice.

“He’s a helluva player,” Saunders said. “We defended him as well as we could on that play and he makes that shot. … That was huge.”

“He’s probably the best general in the game as far as a guy executing,” Garnett added. “They’re playing better than anybody.”

Minnesota somehow still had a chance to tie it with seconds left despite only making one shot the entire fourth quarter. That heave from Gary Neal, however, like many before it, came up just short as the Wolves dropped another contest.  

“We were struggling and I thought [Neal] just thought he could make a shot,” Saunders said. “He thought he maybe got clipped a little bit in his legs. It was kind of a combination of he was looking for a call and also trying to shoot.

Ricky Rubio played arguably his best games of the season as he recorded the fourth triple double of his career. Rubio finished the night 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists in the game to lead the team. Neal chipped in with a team-high 19 points and Andrew Wiggins added 18 points in the loss.

In a game that looked like it was over after 12 minutes of play as the Clippers jumped out to a 13-point lead, the Wolves found a way to battle back thanks to a strong effort before halftime. They opened the second quarter on an 8-0 run and didn’t slow down from there en route to 37 points in the frame.

“I don’t think we competed early,” said Garnett who finished with 12 points on 6-for-10 shooting from the floor. “As the game went on we got more competitive and played more gritty. … We’re playing these teams that have been together six or seven years. We’ve been together for like 30 seconds.”

That impressive stretch actually put Minnesota in the driver’s seat after it trailed by as many as 18 points after a slow start to the night.  

Clippers coach Doc Rivers challenged his group of reserves before the game when asked about coaching his son Austin Rivers.

“I’d like … our entire bench to be more consistent,” Rivers said. “We’ve won a lot of games when our bench has played well. We've won some when they haven't.”

Those players were largely responsible for letting Minnesota back into it in the contest and a big reason the Wolves were able to build a lead after halftime. They just seemed to run out of gas in the final frame as they went 1-for-14 from the floor.

“Sometimes when we fall behind we have to exert so much energy to get back into the game that when we go back to go get that extra fuel we don’t have that energy left,” Saunders said. “We just couldn’t make shots.”

That said it was a promising sign that the Wolves were even within striking distance at the end of the night.

“We’d fall behind by 15 earlier in the year and get beat by 30,” Saunders said. “Now we’re able to fight back and give ourselves opportunities to win. We’re playing some good teams. … It’s not like we’re playing bad teams. It’s a process.”

That grit certain impressed the veteran Garnett.

“I thought at times our immaturity showed tonight,” Garnett said. “There’s a lot of promise, though, and I’ll take guys that are willing to compete over anything.”

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LEADER OF THE PACK

Ricky Rubio stepped up for the Wolves in a big way with Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin out of the lineup. He finished his night with 18 points, 12 rebounds, and 11 assists, enough for the fourth triple double of his career. Rubio also shot better than he has in recent games, finishing 5-for-11 from the floor.

HIGHLIGHT OF THE GAME 

LaVine In Transition

NUMBERS GAME 

-- Los Angles couldn’t have started the game much hotter from the floor. It nailed 62.5 percent of its shots in the first quarter and jumped out to a commanding 36-23 lead.

-- Chris Paul was the catalyst to that incredible start to the game as he recorded 10 points and 8 assists. Paul finished with 26 points and 14 assists on the night.

-- In a game that looked like it was over after 12 minutes of play, Minnesota went on an 8-0 run to get right back into that game. That run was punctuated by a nasty throw down from Zach LaVine that brought the crowd to its feet. 

-- Minnesota scored 37 points in the second stanza to take a 60-58 lead into the locker rooms at halftime. It shot 12-for 22 in the quarter to build the lead.

-- Adreian Payne played the best game of his career in the matchup with the Clippers. He finished the night with 12 points and 5 rebounds in 24 minutes.

-- Hedo Turkoglu is 35 years old. He had no impact on the game. He barely moved from his spot on the bench. He’s in this section because we can’t believe the guy is only 35 years old. It feels like that guy has been in the league for 30 years.

LOOKING AHEAD

Minnesota will play host to the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night at Target Center. That game will give the Wolves a chance to even the season series with the Nuggets. They currently are 1-2 against Denver this season.