Wolves Go Cold In Second Half, Fall To Clippers 95-82

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Thursday was the fourth time the Timberwolves and Los Angeles Clippers met each other this year, but you couldn't necessarily tell it by the box score. Four of the Wolves’ starters from their first meeting with L.A. on Jan. 20 and third meeting on Feb. 28 were not in uniform this time around, all forced into street clothes due to an injury-ravaged second half of the season.

On that Jan. 20 night in Los Angeles, Ricky Rubio and Luke Ridnour combined for 22 points and 12 assists in the back court. Darko Milicic had a season-high 22 points, and Kevin Love hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired to give Minnesota the victory.

Thursday was a different story.

Using a mixed together rotation of 10 healthy players—five of whom played 30 or more minutes—Minnesota battled for as long as it could on Thursday before hitting the wall in the fourth. The Clippers simply had too much offensive power in a 95-82 victory over the Wolves at Target Center. Minnesota still won the season series 3-1.

The Wolves have had eight players miss time in the month of April.

“I thought for the most part our guys played pretty well,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We started the third quarter again kind of in a lull, and they jumped on us and got that lead. We were down five going into the fourth, and we could not make a shot. We just ran out of gas.”

The loss officially eliminated the Wolves (25-35) from playoff contention. The win gave Los Angeles their 10th win in 12 games.

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Wolves vs Clippers

The difference was the two offenses. Where the Clippers continued their efficiency from start to finish, the Wolves couldn’t find their stroke in the second half. The result was a 10-for-37 shooting performance after halftime—27.0 percent—and 14 points in the fourth quarter.

Forward Wes Johnson said it wasn’t so much the Clippers adjusting. Instead, it was Minnesota being unable to connect.

“They stepped up a little bit, but we had open looks,” Johnson said. “It’s about being able to execute on offense.”

The Wolves were able to do that early in the game. Minnesota jumped out to a 10-point lead early in the second quarter after guard JJ Barea knocked down a driving lay-up at the 11:31 mark, giving the Wolves 31-21 lead. Barea had a double-double in the first half—it was the fifth time since 1996-97 that a Wolves player had accomplished that feat—and finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds on the night.

After the Clippers (36-23) opened up the third on a 16-5 run over the first six minutes of the third quarter, the Wolves responded. L.A.’s lead ballooned to 13 points before guard Martell Webster drained three free throws, forward Anthony Tolliver drained a jumper and forward Anthony Randolph scored four of the Wolves’ next six points to cut the lead to five heading into the third.

But in the fourth, as the Clippers clogged the lane and kept Minnesota shooting perimeter shots, L.A. took over. The Wolves had five field goal makes in the fourth, while the Clippers went on a 22-14 run to end the game.

Minnesota finished 5-for-21 from 3-point range on the night.

“I think we fall in love (with 3-pointers) too much instead of establishing an inside presence or attacking the rim,” Johnson said. “We just need to adjust it and not fall in love with it too much.”

Playing without Love, who suffered a mild concussion and neck strain on Wednesday against Denver, the Wolves had several players step up. Five players scored in double-figures, led by center Nikola Pekovic’s 17 points. Randolph scored 16 points and added 9 rebounds, forward Michael Beasley had 14 points and 10 rebounds and Webster and Barea each had 10.

For the Clippers, forward Blake Griffin scored 19 points and added 13 rebounds, forward Caron Butler had 17 points and guard Mo Williams had 14 points. Guard Randy Foye had 11 points and Chris Paul had 8 points and 8 assists.

Johnson said as the Wolves prepare to take on Oklahoma City on Saturday and finish off the final six games of the season, the team needs to continue battling like they have and try to piece together momentum heading into the offseason.

“We have to have that mindset for the rest of the games,” Johnson said. “We can upset a lot of people and steal a couple wins. So we just have to have that mindset going into these games.”

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