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Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves - Game Preview

2010/2011 NBA Regular Season

Target Center
February 15th, 2011, 5:00 PM
FSN Prime Ticket, KFWB 980 AM
Probable starters:
Baron Davis
PG Jonny Flynn
Randy Foye SG Corey Brewer
Ryan Gomes
SF Wesley Johnson
Blake Griffin
PF Kevin Love
DeAndre Jordan
C Darko Milicic

The Back Story:

The Big Picture:

The last time the Clippers played the Timberwolves they were red hot (won 5 of 6) and playing at home. This time, they're ice cold (lost 7 of 8) and playing on the road. It's not just losing 7 of 8 - it's also who they've lost to, and the way they've been playing; losses to the Cavs, Raptors and Bucks have been ugly, ugly, ugly. The Clippers are just not particularly good right now. Defenses are completely focused on Blake Griffin, and Griffin has been kept under wraps this road trip. All that defensive attention focused on Griffin should free up lots of good shots for the rest of the team. Unfortunately, the rest of the team has been pretty useless. Everyone except for Baron Davis that is. Baron has been playing the best basketball of his Clippers career during this trip, but Baron and Griffin have been seemingly playing two on five out there. Ryan Gomes, Randy Foye and DeAndre Jordan, as well as the bench, are going to have to step up and provide some production if the Clippers are going to go into the All Star break on a winning note.

The Antagonist:

The Clippers are missing Eric Gordon, and the Timberwolves are likely missing Michael Beasley, who is listed as doubtful for this game with a sprained ankle. Beasley's not the all around player Gordon is, but he's an important part of the Wolves' attack, and they'll miss him tonight. Rookie Wesley Johnson has been starting in Beasley's absence, but he's really struggling - he's 4 for 23 in the last three games, including 0 for 8 on three pointers. Coach Kurt Rambis recently inserted second year point guard Jonny Flynn back into the starting lineup, giving the Wolves a starting unit to rival the Clippers U23 squad - Flynn and Love are 22, Johnson and Brewer are 24 and Darko is still only 25 (though that's hard to believe). The Wolves continue to struggle to win - they're 3 and 12 in their last 15 games. They're not very good on offense (23rd overall in offensive efficiency) and they're even worse on defense (27th overall in defensive efficiency). They're only 9-18 at home, but of course the Clippers are 4-21 on the road, so you'd have to call the Wolves the favorites to win this one at home.

The Subplots

  • A win would be nice. The Clippers can go into the All Star break with a win, or on a four game losing streak, with all four losses coming against teams with losing records. Not that a win means much, but it would be far preferable to enter the All Star break on a decent note as opposed to one of the ugliest losing streaks imaginable.
  • All Stars. It's rare that players from teams with losing records are selected to be All Stars. This year, both Blake Griffin and Kevin Love made it, which tells you the kind of years they're having. With both of them merely 22 years of age, this is likely to be the power forward rivalry of the next decade at least. Griffin is second in the NBA in double doubles with 46 - Love is first with 50, including an active streak of 41 in a row. They are 2 of the 3 players averaging 21 points and 12 rebounds this season, and the third is Dwight Howard. The list of players to average 21/12 for a season is impressive to say the least, populated almost entirely by Hall of Fame members and future members.
  • Rookie Stars. Griffin and Love will play together on Sunday in LA in the All Star Game, but Griffin and Wesley Johnson will play together Friday in the Rookie Challenge, along with Clipper Eric Bledsoe. Johnson and Bledsoe may have to consider themselves lucky that the voting took place a few weeks ago. Each has been struggling recently, and they now have identical PERs of 10 even. A bad game today for one or the other and they could go into All Star weekend with a single digit PER.
  • Beasley. You have to figure Beasley is going to miss this game. He hasn't played in the last four, and the All Star break comes directly after this one. There's no point in rushing him back for one game, only to then take a week off. He'll take the extra rest and try to come back 100% after the break.
  • Beasley and Gordon. Just as Blake Griffin has struggled without Eric Gordon in the lineup, Kevin Love has struggled without Michael Beasley to carry some of the offensive load. He managed only seven shots in their last game, and has been held under .500 shooting in the four games since Beasley's been out. Likewise, Griffin's shooting percentage has suffered significantly with Gordon out of the lineup, as opponents pack their defenses into the paint.
  • DeAndre versus Darko. DeAndre has had a couple of good games against the Timberwolves this season. He's been slumping lately, but maybe he can bounce back tonight. He has an athleticism advantage over Milicic, but Darko is one of the only guys in the league who may actually be longer than DeAndre. Both are talented by inconsistent, and if either can have a big game for their team it could have a major impact on the outcome.
  • Flynn. Jonny Flynn started 81 games for the Wolves as a rookie last season. This year, after injuring his hip over the summer and missing the first 24 games, Flynn was backing up Luke Ridnour after returning to the lineup. He regained his starting job 8 games ago, but he has been less than impressive. In fact, Monday versus Portland he played only 13 minutes to Ridnour's 35. One wonders if Rambis won't go back to Ridnour as the starter. Flynn is shooting just 37% on the season, and averages 2.4 turnovers and only 3.3 assists. Ick.
  • Big Twos. In the first three meetings between these teams, we've focused a lot on the big two from each team, Griffin and Gordon versus Love and Beasley. With Gordon and Beasley likely out, each team is down to their All Star. But the Clippers actually have another player playing well at this time in Baron Davis. Davis would seem to give LA the advantage tonight. In particular, Baron enjoys posting smaller guards, and he could have a field day against Flynn and Ridnour.
  • The ClipperWolves. Former Timberwolves Ryan Gomes and Randy Foye will be starting for the Clippers tonight (Craig Smith is still hurt). If Gomes and Foye can mange to play well against their former team it will be a major boon to the Clippers' chances tonight. Gomes has had two strong games against the Wolves in the last two meetings; Foye has scored just 4 and 2 in the last two.
  • The Bench. The Clippers' bench has been dreadful lately. Rookies Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu have regressed and look more and more like the players we saw in Summer League in Las Vegas. In the front court, Vinny Del Negro can't decide between the inside presence of Ike Diogu and the floor stretching of Brian Cook. Given how little outside shooting the Clippers have without Gordon, you can understand VDN's interest in getting Cook minutes, but he's not helping much in other ways. Diogu is a much better rebounder and a much more efficient scorer. VDN has also shortened his bench this trip - he's basically playing 8 guys right now, putting a lot of pressure on the rookies.
  • Superstar for one game: Jonny Flynn. Since I bothered to point out how poorly Flynn has been playing, I probably let loose the reverse mojo.
  • Famous Quotation:

    See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.

    Matthew 10:16.
  • Get the Timberwolves perspective at Canis Hoopus.