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Clippers at T-Wolves - Game Preview and Open Thread

LA Clippers logo
T-Wolves logo
14-28 9-36
Target Center
Feb. 1, 2008 - 5:00 PM
Probable starters:
Sam Cassell PG Sebastian Telfair
Quinton Ross SG Marko Jaric
Al Thornton SF Rashad McCants
Tim Thomas PF Ryan Gomes
Josh Powell C Al Jefferson
The Big Picture:

The Clippers open their longest road trip of the season against the team with the worst record in the NBA.  But let's face it, the Clippers are only 14-28 themselves, and Minnesota's home record (7-14) is better than LA's road record (5-13), so the Wolves are the favorites in this one.  The Clippers will stand a much better chance if Chris Kaman and/or Corey Maggette are able to play and be effective.  They've each been sick for five days, and Maggette didn't even fly to Minneapolis with the team Thursday, though he could arrive before game time.  Without their top two scorers, the Clippers would probably be reduced to hoping for another career night from Al Thornton, who went for 33 points in the Clippers' win against the Hawks Wednesday.  Adding to the Clippers injury trouble, Aaron Williams re-injured his left wrist when he fell Wednesday night but is going to play.  The good news is that Brevin Knight's eye must not be as bad as it looked during the telecast Wednesday when he caught that elbow from Marvin Williams, because there's no indication that he'll be under any more restrictions than usual tonight.

The Antagonist:

Believe it or not, the Wolves are on a roll.  They've won 4 of their last 6, including wins over Phoenix and at Golden State, with a one point loss at Boston thrown in.  So it would seem that the Clippers are running into these guys at the wrong time.  Al Jefferson has had games of 26/20 and 40/19 in the stretch, so he's on a bit of a tear.  Ryan Gomes has been playing well since being inserted into the starting lineup and is averaging 15 points per game in January.  The Wolves start a smallish team - Jefferson is a power forward playing center, Gomes is a small forward playing power forward, Rashad McCants is a shooting guard playing small forward.  But this lineup seems to be getting the job done.  McCants missed the last game with his own case of the flu, but is listed as probable tonight.  Randy Foye has been back for the Wolves for a couple games after missing the first half of the season with a knee injury.  I assume Foye will eventually supplant Sebastian Telfair as the starter at point guard, but probably not tonight.

The Subplots

  • Putting up numbers on a bad team.  Neither Chris Kaman nor Al Jefferson had any real chance to make the All Star team this season.  Right wrong or indifferent, coaches simply don't vote for players on bad teams (although the fans sometimes do).  Of the 14 All Star reserves, exactly one came from a team with a losing record, and that was Joe Johnson of the Hawks, who do after all have the 7th best record in the East.  I mean, they still pick 12, even in the East.  Of 24 all stars, not a single one came from a team with a losing record and currently out of the playoffs.  Conversely, there are 18 teams that fit that description - the minimum 8 in the East and 10 with winning records in the West.  17 of the 18 teams have an all star game representative (only Golden State missed out).  As for Al and K2, Jefferson has the better offensive numbers, but he's widely regarded as one of the worst defenders in the league.  Henry at TrueHoop called him the "Junior Zach Randolph" today.  Ouch.
  • Thornton.  The Charlotte game preview included the bullet 'Thornton has to show up'.  Well, he did, but he picked up 6 fouls in 19 minutes and was a non-factor in the Clippers' loss.  Then he was expected to miss the Atlanta game, but instead he went for a career high 33 in the win.  If Kaman or Maggette or both of them are out of this game, the Clippers must have Al's offense tonight.
  • Rematch.  In the first meeting between these two teams, the Clippers won despite trailing for three quarters and shooting 0 for 14 from three point range.  They made up for that in part by shooting twice as many free throws (32 to 16), but a lot of those came from Corey Maggette of course.
  • Rebounding.  Also in that game, the Clippers gave up 16 offensive rebounds.  And that was with K2 grabbing 13 defensive boards.  If they don't box out tonight, Jefferson and Gomes and Craig Smith will absolutely kill them with second chance points.
  • Cassell versus Telfair.  This is the kind of matchup that Sam Cassell loves.  Not only will he be playing in Minnesota, where he had his best season as a pro in 03-04, he also be defended by a smallish, youngish point guard in Sebastian Telfair.  If Sam is on, he could have a big night.