Game Preview: Recently hot Clippers, Wolves set for showdown at STAPLES
On Monday, two of the NBA’s hottest teams will try their hand at cooling the other off.
The L.A. Clippers (23-22), winners of 12 of their last 16, will play host to the Minnesota Timberwolves (30-18), the Western Conference’s third best team and winners of 11 of their last 16.
Over the last seven games, no team in the NBA has been hotter than the Clippers. L.A. has won six of its last seven, which includes wins over Golden State and Houston, the NBA’s top two teams. And leading the way for the Clippers – who are now the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff picture – has been guard Lou Williams and forward Blake Griffin.
Williams is averaging 31.3 points and 5.7 assists in the last seven games and Griffin, who has played in five consecutive games after missing two games with a concussion, is averaging 20.6 points, 9.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists over his last five.
In Saturday’s game against Utah, the Clippers’ first loss in two weeks, Williams registered 31 points, 7 assists and a franchise record 10 steals. He became the first player in NBA history – since steals were recorded beginning in 1973 – to finish a game with 30+ points, 7+ assists and 10+ steals.
31p/2r/7a/10s | @TeamLou23 becomes the first player since Michael Jordan in 1988 to record a game of 30+ points and 10+ steals.— LA Clippers (@LAClippers) January 21, 2018
For Griffin, Saturday marked the 500th game in his NBA career, and he became one of two players to average 21+ points, 9+ rebounds and 4+ assists per game, while shooting 50 percent from the field, in his first 500 games. The other is hall of famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
Arguably the most impressive aspect of the Clippers’ recent 6-1 stretch is that the team has been without center DeAndre Jordan for much of it. Jordan has missed the last four games with a sprained left ankle, after suffering the injury in the second quarter of a Jan. 11 road win over Sacramento. In the five games prior to that, Jordan was averaging 17.6 points and 13.4 rebounds.
He is currently second in the NBA in rebounding (14.9) and field goal percentage (.661).
The Clippers are also without guard Austin Rivers, who has missed the last 11 games as he recovers from a right ankle injury, and forward Danilo Gallinari, who has been sidelined for the past 21 games with a glute injury.
However, reserve forwards Montrezl Harrell and Wesley Johnson have been picking up the slack for their injured teammates in recent weeks. Over his last six games, Harrell is averaging 15.2 points and 6.0 rebounds, and over the last five, Johnson is averaging 13.4 points and 6.4 rebounds.
The Clippers and Wolves have faced off twice this season, with Minnesota emerging victorious on both occasions. On Dec. 3, the Wolves defeated the Clippers, 112-106, in Minnesota. Three days later, L.A. played host but fell to the Wolves once again, 113-107.
Monday’s game will look a little different, not only due to the Clippers’ injuries, but also due to the Wolves’ sidelined players, which includes guards Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford. Butler has a sore right knee and Crawford, a former Clipper, has a sprained left great toe.
In two games against L.A. this season, Butler has averaged 26.0 points and Crawford has averaged 11.5.
Monday’s game will tip-off at 7:30 p.m.