Clippers Vs. Timberwolves - Game Preview

Feb. 28, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) defends against Minnesota Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love (42) in the second half of the game at the Staples Center. Timberwolves won 109-97. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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22-13

19-19
Target Center
March 5th, 2012, 5:00 PM
FSN West, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG Ricky Rubio
Randy Foye SG Luke Ridnour
Caron Butler
SF Wesley Johnson
Blake Griffin
PF Kevin Love
DeAndre Jordan
C Nikola Pekovic

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The bad news is that the Timberwolves have beaten the Clippers twice already this season. The good news is that both of those games were in LA, and this one is in Minnesota. Oh wait, that's also bad news. As it happens, the Timberwolves are no better at home than they are on the road this season -- a .500 team all the way around. But the Clippers are theoretically better at home than on the road, so this could be trouble. Especially since the Clippers had to go into overtime last night in Houston -- and then travel a thousand miles for tonight's game. The Clippers will have plenty of incentive to beat the Wolves -- they've lost two straight to Minnesota, not to mention that a loss tonight knocks them out of first place in the Pacific Division -- but this game has all the earmarks of a schedule loss. Fourth game in four cities in five nights, coming off a overtime game in which key guys played big minutes, and a late night arrival in Minneapolis. None of it bodes well.

The Antagonist:

The Timberwolves return home after splitting a four game west coast trip. Impressive wins over the Clippers and Blazers bookended not so impressive performances in losses to the Lakers and Suns. Strangely for such a young team, the Wolves have played no better at home this season than they have on the road. They're 10-10 at home, 9-9 on the road. Usually, a young team just learning to win, will feed off the energy of the home crowd, but that has not seemed to be the case for the Wolves this season for some reason. What's particularly interesting about the Wolves' win over the Clippers is that neither Kevin Love nor Ricky Rubio have played particularly well against LA. In the first game Darko Milicic went for a season high of 22 (double his second best output this season) and in the second game Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley each scored 27, without missing a shot in the fourth quarter. I've been looking forward to watching Rubio play all season -- I still feel like I'm waiting.

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper. No guests tonight, you're stuck with me. You might have to be a little patient. Monday is hoops night, so I may be powering through the DVR to finish in time to get a timely recap posted.
  • Wolves Q&A's. Six days ago when the Clippers and Wolves played in LA, I asked some questions of Tim Allen from Canis Hoopus. This time, I exchanged questions with one of Tim's co-bloggers at CH, Stop-n-Pop -- who skews more towards the irreverent end of the blogging spectrum. Be sure to check out Stop-n-Pop's answers to my questions, but you should also check out Tim's answers from last week if you haven't already. My answers to Tim's questions are here, and check at Canis Hoopus for my answers to Stop-n-Pop's questions, which should publish about 11 AM Pacific. BTW, Stop-n-Pop did something different where he solicited questions for me from his community, which seemed like a cool idea. I may steal that idea for a future Q&A.
  • DVR Alert. The game is on Fox Sports West, not Fox Sports Prime Ticket. Make sure you've got your DVR's set correctly, especially considering the early tip, or you're going to get home from work and find out you missed most of the game.
  • Last preview. Since the last game between these two teams was just six days ago, you should probably go read the last preview: most of that information will still apply.
  • Wolves Key Metrics:
    Pace: 93.5 (6th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.0 (14th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 103.0 (15th of 30)
  • Clippers Key Metrics:
    Pace: 89.8 (24th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 107.7 (4th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.3 (21st of 30)
  • Pacific Standings. The Clippers were in second place in the Pacific Division for about four hours yesterday, from the end of the Lakers win over Miami until the end of the Clippers' overtime win in Houston. However, that heroic effort to cling to first place will be for naught if they lose in Minnesota tonight, as a loss will move them back behind the Lakers.
  • Rubio's shooting. Many NBA observers looking at Ricky Rubio's game in Spain realized that he was a superior passer with a great basketball IQ and a preternatural feel the game, worried nonetheless that he would struggle at the NBA level because he just could shoot. Rubio managed to shoot well enough in the early going to quiet the critics at first. He was shooting 46% overall, and just as well from three point range in the first dozen games, and in the process earned a starting job with the Wolves and some amount of Rookie of the Year buzz. But the wheels have come off his jump shot since then. He's shooting 32% in the last 26 games, and less than 30% from deep. In two games against the Clippers, he's 2 for 19. In his last 6, he's 13 for 54, 24%. He may do everything else well, but if he can't shoot better than this (he's down to 36% on the season, second worst among starters), he's going to have issues.
  • Excuses, excuses. The Clippers have ready made excuses for both of their losses to the Wolves. In the first game, they were playing without Chris Paul and Caron Butler, and Mo Williams was ejected in the fourth quarter. If you think about it, considering that this was before they signed Kenyon Martin, the Clippers lost the game in the fourth playing without about half of their rotation. The game last week featured performances from Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley that can best be described as outliers -- it's possible neither of them will shoot that well again the rest of their careers. Tonight, they've got a ready made excuse as well -- fourth game in five nights, on the road in a back to back, OT last night. Problem is, excuse or no excuse, it ain't good to drop three straight to any team, and certainly not to this team.
  • Wolves tired too. The Clippers saving grace tonight may be that the Timberwolves could be almost as tired as they are. The Wolves aren't on a back-to-back, which definitely favors them, but both teams are playing their fifth game in five cities in seven nights. From the first game after the All Star break last Tuesday in LA to tonight's meeting in Minneapolis, both the Clippers and Wolves are playing their fifth game. That's a brutal schedule for both teams. The main difference is that Minnesota probably got a lot more sleep last night.
  • Clippers ailing? In addition to every other disadvantage facing the team, according to Ralph and Mike during the Houston broadcast, the Clippers also have a bug going through the team. DeAndre Jordan was sick against the Suns, and other players are feeling the effects, even if they've continued to play. Yet another reason the Clippers could be very flat this game.
  • The Denver loss. This is the second time this season that the Clippers have played four games in five nights. The last time was January 29 to February 2, and the Clippers won the first three games of that stretch over Denver, Oklahoma City and Utah. But in the fourth game, playing in LA after traveling from Salt Lake the night before, the Clippers had their worst home performance of the season and were blown out by the Nuggets. And that was at home after a 600 mile flight -- this one is on the road after a thousand mile flight. It does not bode well.
  • Defending Williams and Beasley. I'm more or less of the belief that there wasn't any defense for these guys last week. They were making shots from all over the floor with guys right in their grill -- Williams made a 22 footer while being knocked to the ground by Kenyon Martin. When it's clicking, it's clicking. Having said that, if they weren't focal points of the last game plan, they will be this time. Beasley is a gifted scorer, but stay up on his jump shot, and stay all over his left hand. Force him right, and he's much less effective. As for Williams, apparently he has figured out the NBA three. He was 11 for 46 shooting threes through 33 games -- he's 8 for 14 over the last 5. The scouting report last game probably didn't say anything about him shooting from deep, but it will this time.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    wolf

    n. A womanizing man.

    He's a real wolf. He pretends to care about a girl, romances her, uses her, and then drops her when he gets bored or interested in someone else.
  • Get the Timberwolves perspective at Canis Hoopus.
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