Friday, January 18, 2013

L.A. Clippers Show T-Wolves How It's Done

Who says the Minnesota Timberwolves can't catch a break? The L.A. Clippers came to town with the 2nd best record in the NBA but with perhaps its (the NBA's) best player, point guard Chris Paul, hurt. But, of course, the T-Wolves can cover Paul with Kevin Love and raise 'em Chase Budinger, Malcolm Lee and Brandon Roy.

On top of that, Nikola Pekovic left the game with a "quad contusion" at 3:39 of the 3rd and Alexey Shved went out with a sprained ankle at 5:40 of the 4th. It's not yet known when either will be back, but they're expected to miss practice on Friday at a minimum. The Wolves trailed by 5 when Pekovic went out.

Minnesota, in short, hung around. L.A. led by 5 at the 1st quarter break, 4 at the half, and by 5 after 3. But a 16-6 run to open the 4th quarter put the game out of reach for the Wolves. And the fact is that at no time was there a sense that Minnesota could or would win this game.

L.A. played methodically rather than with flair, well, unless you consider a dunk-fest to be colorful. The Clips had 6 dunks in the 1st half, and 6 other lay-ups. Meanwhile, the Wolves were actually having to work for their points. So it never felt like the Clips were in any danger of losing.

It is true that the Wolves actually won the possession game, however, 13-11 off the offensive glass and 14-18 on turnovers. But the Clips shot 46 percent to the Wolves 36, and 38 from behind the arc to the Wolves 21. The dunks were 8-3 Clips, and L.A. had a total of 18 dunks and layups, Minnesota 11. And because the Wolves were not as strong to the rim (or because L.A. defended the rim), Minnesota missed 8 layups. L.A. missed 4.

In other words, L.A. shot 18-for-22 on layups and dunks, we shot 11-of-19. They scored 14 more points from point blank range and won by 13.

Think of it this way. L.A. shot 17-for-55 (31 percent) from outside the little circle, the Wolves 19-of-65 (29 percent). This game ain't so hard if you can avoid giving up the layup, but it's damn hard if you can't get to the rim yourself.

Luke Ridnour was the Wolves' best player, scoring 21 points with 5 assists. Andrei Kirilenko scored 15 with 4 steals, Derrick Williams 10 with 7 boards and 2 blocks. Nikola Pekovic was held to just 4 points before leaving in the 3rd quarter, and Ricky Rubio had 4 points and 6 assists. There was no matchup anywhere on the floor that the Timberwolves won.

Blake Griffin was a bully inside, scoring 20 points, but Jamal Crawford was even better, a stiletto to Griffin's meat-ax, with 22 points. Caron Butler added 12, Ronny Turiaf 11 and Matt Barnes 10. The L.A. bench out-scored the Wolves' reserves 45-23.

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