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Clippers 91 - Minnesota 87 - Al Thornton to the Rescue

 Baron Davis and Al Thornton combined for 33 points tonight, 5 points over their combined season average coming into the game.  Of course, of the 33, Al accounted for 31 of them.  But to Baron's credit, the 2 he contributed were huge, the last points of the game as he sealed LA's 91-87 victory.

Since Eric Gordon has been hurt, the Clippers have been incredibly dependent on Chris Kaman and Baron Davis.  Well, tonight Kaman went 6 for 20, and Davis missed his first nine shots and hadn't scored a point until he hit a driving layup with 8.5 seconds left to ice the game.  So after getting a combined 7 for 30 (23%) from their two big guns, I guess the Clippers should feel pretty good to have gotten any win, even against the 1-13 Timberwolves

Someone had to step into the void left by Kaman and Baron, and it was first and foremost Thornton.  He made 11 of 16 shots, mostly on hard drives to the rim.  He finished with season highs of 31 and 10 in points and rebounds - and 6 of his rebounds were on the offensive end.  Al has never been a particularly good rebounder on either end.  Well, he's still a pretty anemic defensive rebounder, but suddenly he's a terror on the offensive galss.  He's actually leading the team at this point - he has 35 offensive rebounds on the season to 33 for Kaman and 29 for Marcus Camby. 

Al's efforts brought the Clippers back from a 3 point halftime deficit.  He did get some help from the point guard position and the post - just not much from Baron or Kaman.  Fortunately, Sebastian Telfar with 17 points and Marcus Camby with 12 points and 18 rebounds also stepped up.

Final - 11.23.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Minnesota Timberwolves 29 22 22 14 87
Los Angeles Clippers 28 20 24 19 91

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From what I saw (and I have not yet seen the first half), Kaman was just off.  This wasn't a case of Mr. Flippy rearing his ugly head - he took the shots he's been taking all season, they just didn't go in.  In the second half Kaman was 1 for 8.  But without DeAndre Jordan sitting out with a bad ankle, Chris' poor shooting night didn't keep him off the floor - he played 42 minutes.

As for Baron, Dunleavy went with Telfair for long stretches of the second half - and it was hard to blame him.  For the game, Telfair played 26 minutes and Baron played 24.  If you're noticing that those numbers add up to more than a 48 minute game, you're right - and it's a significant point.

Shortly after Baron committed his fourth turnover, while he was still scoreless and 0 for 7, MDsr replaced him with Bassy about 3 minutes into the second half.  14 game minutes later, MDsr put Baron back out there for the final 7 minutes of the game.  But three minutes later, after Baron had taken and missed two more ill-advised shots, Telfair reentered and the beard sat back down - and the beard was clearly not happy about it.  I thought at the time that it was a strange decision - not to bring Telfair back, as Bassy had definitely played well.  But Rasual Butler was invisible in this one, and Mardy Collins was in the game at the time.  So why not play Baron at the two - sure he was ice cold, but neither Butler not Collins were much better offensively, and I'd bet on Baron to heat up before those other guys.

To his credit, MDsr did exactly that at the next stoppage a couple of minutes later - he replaced Collins with Baron for the final two minutes, playing Bassy and Baron together.  And although Baron was ice cold, he still seemed a likely candidate to take and hit a big shot with the game on the line - more likely than Butler or Collins at any rate.  After some timely three point shooting from Ryan Gomes had trimmed the lead to two, Baron made his only basket of the game - a driving layup off of a Kaman pick and roll. 

So, yes, Minnesota is the worst team in the league by point differential.  And no, the Timberwolves have not won a road game, nor any game since their first one.  So it would have been ugly and embarrassing to lose to them.  But despite sub-par (very sub-par) performances from Kaman and Baron, the Clippers were able to get the win.  It's not a great win by any means - but it's a win.

The team goes on the road to Indianapolis and Detroit now.  Eric Gordon will try hard to get back on the court Wednesday in his Indy hometown.