Clippers Vs. Timberwolves - Game Preview - In the No-Sweep Zone

Feb. 28, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin (32) and Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) go for a rebound in the first half of the game at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
2011/2012 NBA Regular Season
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vs.
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35-23

25-34
Target Center
April 12th, 2012, 5:00 PM
FSN West, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Chris Paul
PG J.J. Barea
Randy Foye SG Martell Webster
Caron Butler
SF Wesley Johnson
Blake Griffin
PF Derrick Williams
DeAndre Jordan
C Nikola Pekovic

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The Timberwolves are the only team in the NBA that the Clippers have played more than once without at least one win this season. Think about that for a moment. All those teams that have tormented the Clippers for years: the Lakers, the Spurs, the Mavericks, the Blazers, the Hornets, the Jazz, the Nuggets -- the Clippers have beaten all of them this season. But they're 0-3 against the Wolves. I don't even want to talk about the three losses -- each one is more painful than the last. I guess the good news is that it's not as if the Wolves have dominated the games. They just managed to win them all, each in a unique, unexpected and painful manner. Surely the Clippers won't allow themselves to be swept. The Wolves are shorthanded, they have no incentive to win other than to make the Clippers' misery complete, and both teams are playing the second night of a back-to-back. The Clippers have a chance after winning in Oklahoma City last night to return from this difficult road trip with a 2-1 record and a one game lead over the red hot Grizzlies for fourth place in the West. The great win in Oklahoma City is essentially wiped away with a loss tonight. It can't happen. Actually, I'm pretty certain that Chris Paul won't let it happen.

The Antagonist:

The Timberwolves season went down the drains a couple of games after their last win over the Clippers. Ricky Rubio tore his ACL two games later against the Lakers, and the Wolves are 4-15 since Rubio went down. They're currently riding a seven game losing streak. It's not that Rubio was that important to them. Rather, like the Clippers in 09-10 that were hanging around .500 more than two months into the season, reality has set in for the Wolves. When the 09-10 Clippers found out that Blake Griffin was out for the season, they didn't compete the rest of the season, despite that fact that they were almost .500 without him before. I'm guessing it's the same thing with Rubio and the Wolves -- the effort to compete night in and night just isn't there after losing a key player when you know you just don't have enough. The Wolves will be missing more than just Rubio for this game -- Kevin Love suffered a concussion in Denver last night and spent the night in a Colorado hospital for observation. Given how seriously everyone takes head injuries these days, and the fact that the Wolves' season is over, I see no way that Love plays tonight. Luke Ridnour is also out with a sprained ankle. That's three starters gone -- their best player and their starting backcourt. Of course, the Clippers don't have a great track record this season against undermanned squads (see the Cleveland and Phoenix games) but it's long past time for those kinds of let downs. Right?

The Subplots

  • Tonight's Special Guest Recapper. No guests tonight, you're stuck with me.
  • The Questionable Blogger. Check out Tim Allen's answers to my questions about the Wolves, and head over to Canis Hoopus to read my answers to his questions.
  • Wolves Key Metrics:
    Pace: 93.2 (5th of 30 NBA Teams)
    Off Rtg: 104.9 (16th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 106.1 (21st of 30)
  • Clippers Key Metrics:
    Pace: 89.2 (27th of 30)
    Off Rtg: 108.1 (5th of 30)
    Def Rtg: 105.5 (18th of 30)
  • 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.
  • Plenty to fear. Even without Kevin Love, the Clippers should have a healthy respect for this Wolves team. After all, Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley each scored 27 in the second meeting between the teams, while Love was held to 10. Williams scored 27 again last night after Love went out, and Anthony Randolph scored a season-high 28 as well. So the Wolves have other forwards who can put points on the board. The Clippers need to take this game very seriously.
  • J.J. Barea. In addition to Clipper killers Williams and Beasley, the Wolves will be starting J.J. Barea at point guard. Barea tormented the Clippers last season as much as any player in the league. The more I think about this game, the more worried I get.
  • Mo Williams. Williams has now missed 11 games with a sprained toe. He went on the trip with them, so surely he'll play tonight. Of course, the Clippers have won 9 of those games, so maybe they're not in such a big hurry to get him back. Still, he's the third most reliable scorer on the team and will be important in the playoffs -- it makes sense to get him back and get him into game action sooner rather than later, if only to help him get up to game speed before the postseason.
  • Darko. Darko Milicic lost his starting center job to Nikola Pekovic months ago, and then he dropped out of the rotation completely. He hasn't played in the Wolves' last 13 games, and Rick Adelman recently said that he doesn't expect him to play again this season, supposedly because of a hamstring injury, but more likely because Adelman is done with him. If it's true this is actually good news for the Clippers -- Darko has played very well against them, and his length actually bothers Blake Griffin a lot. Without Darko and without Love, the Wolves will be defending Griffin with the likes of Williams (a rookie) and Randolph (a twig). Look for Griffin to have a big game.
  • Excuses, excuses. The Clippers have ready made excuses for all three 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 current rotation. The game in late February featured performances from Derrick Williams and Beasley that can best be described as outliers -- it's possible neither of them will shoot that well again the rest of their careers. In game three, the Clippers were playing their fourth game in five nights, on the road in a back to back, following an overtime game.
  • Defending Williams and Beasley. I'm more or less of the belief that there wasn't any defense for these guys in February. 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 game plan then, they will be now, especially with Love out. 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 likes shooting threes against the Clippers. He's shooting 28% on the season, but he's made 7 of 11 in the last two games against L.A.
  • Pacific Division race. The Timberwolves have had a profound affect on the Pacific Division race this season. The Wolves are 3-0 against the Clippers, 0-4 against the Lakers. Ignoring the Wolves, the Clippers would have a two game lead over the Lakers against the rest of the league. The Clippers can still catch the Lakers, but they'll have to break their Wolves losing streak first.
  • Stars vs. Muskies. The last two games between these two teams, both painful Clipper losses, featured both teams in throwback ABA uniforms. Let's not do that anymore.
  • From the Urban Dictionary:

    timber wolf

    The act of suddenly changing lanes for no reason, generally done to mess with the stoners, drunks, or oblivious people who are packed into the back of your car.

    You: What's that in the road up there?
    Stoners in the backseat: TIMBER WOLF!
    *you abrubtly change lanes*
  • Get the Timberwolves perspective at Canis Hoopus.
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