Offensive Rebounds Help Clippers Hold Off Wolves Late, 96-90
The Wolves did most things right in coach Rick Adelman’s first game back, but certain categories came back to haunt them in the final box score.
Despite shooting well from the field and winning the turnover battle, Minnesota still gave up too many rebounds and missed key free throws on their way to a 96-90 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Clippers.
Wolves vs. Clippers
“They are a great team,” Nikola Pekovic said. “They came to play a good game all the way to the end. We just missed some luck. I think that when we start winning games and we turn around this thing, we are going to get it.”
Minnesota came out ready to play, receiving reinforcements from previously injured players Pekovic and Alexey Shved. With the help of 3-pointers from Derrick Williams and Andrei Kirilenko—along with a highlight-reel pass from Rubio that you might see on tonight’s news—the Wolves closed out the first quarter leading by two, 25-23.
Then, after an odd stretch where three technical fouls were handed out and Matt Barnes was ejected, the Wolves rolled to an 11-point lead. Los Angeles climbed back, however, and used a buzzer-beater 3-pointer from Caron Butler to take a four-point lead into half.
The third quarter saw Los Angeles begin to slip away, as they led by as much as 11 at one point. But Minnesota battled back with an 11-2 run and came within two points.
"I told them at the timeout, 'you have two choices here - are you going to give in or are you going come back in and make it a game and battle?'” Adelman said of the third quarter. “I think we had a lot of adversity.”
The Wolves finally tied the score for the first time in the second half when J.J. Barea hit a free throw in the fourth quarter to knot things at 80-80. From there, the teams went back-and-forth until the final minute.
The deciding factor, however, seemed to be that whenever Minnesota needed a stop, Los Angeles found a way to collect an offensive rebound. They ended the game with 15 total.
"We are not as big as they are,” Adelman said. “We had [Dante Cunningham] on [DeAndre] Jordan and he just jumped over him. We talked at halftime that if you know a guy is that long, you are not going to win the jumping contest … you are going to lose that battle."
The final straw was a spinning shot in the paint from Blake Griffin that converted and put him at the free-throw line, which he made for the 3-point play to put the Clippers up by six. From there, the Wolves played the foul game.
"It's a tough loss,” Adelman added. “I thought we actually defended pretty well except for the end we gave up two or three offensive boards when we needed to get the possession. They kept the ball.”
Griffin finished with 26 points and 13 rebounds and was joined in the double-double club by DeAndre Jordan [16 points, 12 rebounds] and Eric Bledsoe [10 points, 10 assists].
Pekovic led the Wolves with 17 points and 12 rebounds; bench players Barea and Shved scored 14 and 12 points, respectively.
For Shved, his first game back from injury, there may have been some rust to shake off. The rookie guard shot just 5-of-13 from the field, including 1-of-7 from outside.
“It’s not just this game where I missed a couple shots, it was two or three games before the injury,” Shved said in the locker room. “Today I feel better than before, and I really want to make my open shots. It’s crazy to miss open shots.”
Leader of the Pack: Nikola Pekovic
In his first game back after missing the last five contests, Pekovic had 17 points and 12 rebounds for his 14th double-double of the season. He also provided a much-needed physical presence down low against Griffin and Jordan.
“Yeah, they are very physical,” Adelman said. “You have to play through that in this league. They have a bit of a reputation now, and it shows. Again, it's something we have to learn.”
Highlight of the Night
Less than three minutes into the game, Ricky Rubio tossed a no-look pass between his legs in transition to Kirilenko, who finished with a left-side lay-up. Minnesota moved up to an 8-2 lead; the dish was one of four assists for Rubio on the night.
The Numbers Game
“We can't hang our heads if things start going the other direction. We have to finish plays and finish at the basket especially. I thought the guys played hard. We got some people back and we are just going to keep at it."— Wolves coach Rick Adelman
The Wolves have back-to-back home games this weekend, starting with the Lakers on Friday at 7 PM. They then host the Hornets on Saturday.