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Minnesota 87 - Clippers 77

Final - 4.7.2009 1 2 3 4 Total
Minnesota Timberwolves 18 29 26 14 87
Los Angeles Clippers 16 25 21 15 77

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You know, sometimes it's really no mystery what happens in a game.  Sometimes, it's self-evident, and we don't have to spend a lot of time on analysis in the aftermath.

Sort the Clippers roster by height, tallest to shortest, and these are the first 9 names you get:

  • Chris Kaman - 7'0" - DNP flu
  • Marcus Camby - 6'11" - DNP ankle
  • DeAndre Jordan - 6'11" - 19 minutes - 0 points - left game with strained achilles tendon
  • Steve Novak - 6'10" - 27 minutes, 0 points, 0 for 9 shooting
  • Zach Randolph - 6'9" - DNP - suspended
  • Brian Skinner - 6'9" - 37 minutes, 14 points, 10 rebounds
  • Al Thornton - 6'8" - DNP - heel bruise
  • Ricky Davis - 6'7" - DNP - knee tendinitis
  • Mardy Collins - 6'6" - DNP - plantar fasciitis

So, of the nine Clippers taller than Vince Vaughn, six of them missed the entire game, a seventh was unavailable in the second half, and only one actually scored a point.  If you took all the Clippers who weren't available at the end of the game, and laid them end to end, they'd stretch from the baseline to within inches of midcourt.  I'm not sure why you'd do that, but that's what would happen if you did.

Consequently, the Clippers were outrebounded in the game 62 to 34 - and frankly, they had to rally to make the numbers look that good.  Again, it's not really rocket science - in the best of times Fred Jones was defending Ryan Gomes, while giving away 4 inches (Gomes went for 24 and 13).  Worse still, for long stretches of the second half, Baron Davis was playing power forward and defending Craig Smith.

The funny thing about all of this is that one of the T-Wolves biggest weaknesses as a eam is that they tend to be undersized at every position.  As the NBA has gone nutty-kookoo for length, Minnesota has tended to go against the conventional wisdom when playing bridge - they've opted for strength over length.  Al Jefferson, Kevin Love, Craig Smith, Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye - each and every one of them is strong as an ox - and undersized at their position.  But not tonight.  Smith and Gomes must have thought they were back in the Big East - suddenly they were the tall guys again.

What's strange about this is that had Novak had a good game, the Clippers might well have won despite the crazy rebounding disparity.  As I mentioned, he was 0 for 9, including 8 missed threes.  And it wasn't a question of great defense.  He was missing shots he pretty much always makes.  Let's face it - he has unlimited range and a quick trigger - if he can see the basket and the shot isn't blocked, it's a good shot.  But he was just ice cold in this one on a night when the Clippers really needed him to make some shots.

As a team, the Clippers shot under 36%.  And that was with Eric Gordon going 10 for 17 on his way to a game high 28.  Take Gordon out of the mix and the rest of the Clippers were 19 for 64.  Eeek. 

In the end, it's another loss on the way to a lot of ping pong balls in the lottery.  Unfortunately, it's unlikely the Clippers (18 wins) can (reverse) catch the Kings (16 wins) for worst overall record.  Sacto comes to Staples on Friday, and while it's practically a given that the Kings will win that one (they always beat the Clippers, Randolph will still be suspended, Kaman will either be sick or terrible, etc.), they'd still have to win one more of their other four while the Clippers lose out.  And while we're on the subject, let's get into a little minutiae.  There are no tie-breakers for worst record, per se.  The fact that the Kings have won the season series is meaningless.  If the Clippers and the Kings end up tied out of the lottery, two things happen:

  1. They split the lottery odds for the two positions they share
  2. A coin flip determines draft position if neither is chosen in the top three spots

In other words, if the Clippers and Kings finish the season with 18 wins each, tied for worst record in the NBA, the 199 ping pong balls for second worst record get added to the 250 ping pong balls for worst record, and those 449 ping pong balls get distributed to each team 225 and 224 (with the extra ball going to the winner of the coin flip).

I'm assuming Agent Zero, Brendan Haywood and the Wizards (currently on 18 wins with the Clippers) are good for a couple more wins and it's going to come down to LA and Sacramento.  A loss Friday night puts between 25 and 51 ping pong balls in play (which corresponds to 2.5% to 5.1% better odds in the lottery).  A Clipper win Friday, and Sacramento has the bottom spot locked up.

It's coming down to the wire.