Wolves Top Clippers 73-64 In Summer League Opener
On a 19-man Summer League roster filled with young talent, rookies and players trying to find a spot on an NBA roster, Derrick Williams and Wes Johnson are the type of guys looked at to lead by example. Lottery picks who logged big minutes for the Timberwolves last season, both are guys who can take control of these Summer League contests in Las Vegas.
On Monday, they didn’t disappoint.
Johnson led the Wolves with 16 points, Derrick Williams added 15 points and 9 boards and the Minnesota Timberwolves opened up their 2012 Summer League schedule with a 73-64 win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Wolves, who spent their weekend minicamp testing the team’s conditioning, used that up-tempo game plan to push the ball and drive to the basket frequently. It’s a part of both Williams’ and Johnson’s skill sets that Minnesota coaches hoped the two would do more of last season. On Monday, Summer League coach David Adelman said the two did a good job using that part of their games.
“That’s why they’re here,” Adelman said. “I thought last year, first year let’s see what these guys can do and can’t do. Derrick and Wes, they can get hot and make shots, but these guys are big. They’re big wings. They’ve got to get in the lane and put pressure on those bigs on the other team and get to the free-throw line.”
The Wolves certainly had the opportunity to push the ball thanks in part to their presence in the paint, led by Brazilian center Paulo Prestes. Prestes, drafted by the Wolves in 2010, played only 19 minutes but impacted the game immensely with his defense and his rebounding.
He finished the game with nine points and eight rebounds, four of them on the offensive end, and clogged up the lane for L.A.’s perimeter players who tried to penetrate.
“Defensively when he’s in the paint it’s tough to score,” Adelman said. “He made it tough for [Eric] Bledsoe, who we are all aware is a great player. He’s one of those guys who is the future of the league. So I thought [Prestes] was important tonight.”
Prestes said if there’s one thing he can bring to this Wolves roster, it’s grit in the paint.
“Fight every time in the low basket, protect the basket,” Prestes said. “That’s my game: Play hard defense against the big guys.”
All the while, he showed he can put the ball in the basket on the offensive end. He finished 4-of-7 shooting on the night.
Monday was also the first NBA action for rookie forward Robbie Hummel, who was drafted 58th overall in June. Hummel finished 3-of-6 from the field with six points and tallied six rebounds. Ten of the team’s 19 players saw action on Monday.
Terrico White led the Clippers with 16 points on the night, connecting on 5-of-11 including a pair of 3-pointers. Bledsoe, Adam Morrison and Hilton Armstrong each had 11 points in the loss.
Built Ford Tough Leader of the Pack
The Timberwolves got strong showings out of several players on Monday night, but the top performer was forward Derrick Williams. After a grueling workout regimen this summer and working to transform himself into a viable option at small forward, Williams hit his first three shots and finished the game with 15 points on the night. He also added nine rebounds and logged a team-high 32 minutes. Williams played the small forward position admirably and forced the Clippers to foul him as he drove to the basket. He also added a team-high two steals on the night.
Highlight of the game
With 3:30 remaining in the second quarter and L.A. in the middle of a 12-2 run to close the Wolves’ lead, Minnesota used its transition game to hammer home the top play of the night. Guard Kammron Taylor took the ball and lobbed a half-court pass to Williams, who snagged the pass with his fingertips and threw down a monster jam. It was one of two assists for Taylor in the game, but the alley-oop to Williams was reminiscent of the Rubio-to-Williams flair from last season.
The Numbers Game
- The Timberwolves jumped out to an early 23-14 lead thanks in large part to a big shooting discrepancy between the two teams. Minnesota opened up the game shooting 58 percent through much of the first quarter, while L.A. struggled from the field and was shooting 29 percent midway through the first. Those numbers did even out by the end of the night—the Wolves shot 37.1 percent and the Clippers shot 38.6 percent—but the fast start was important for setting the tone.
- Three Wolves scored in double figures Monday, led by Johnson’s 16 points. Williams finished with 15 and forward Mike Harris finished up with 10. Though the Wolves struggled from the free throw line all game—they shot 16-of-26 overall—Harris was a bright spot from the stripe. He finished the game 4-for-4, the only Wolves player to shoot perfect from the line.
- Coby Karl started the game slow offensively, going 0-for-3 in the first half and shooting 1-of-5 from the field through three quarters. But Karl was 2-for-2 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter, and he helped Minnesota hold onto their lead in the final frame. He finished with nine points and was 3-for-6 from 3-point range.
Quote of the Game
"Coby Karl—he’s like a coach on the floor. I might as well have bought a ticket and sat in the stands.” – Wolves Summer League coach David Adelman.
The Timberwolves play again Tuesday night against the Charlotte Bobcats. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m. CT, and the game will be carried live on NBA TV. In case you missed Monday’s game against the Clippers, it will be shown Tuesday morning at 8 a.m. CT on NBA TV.