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Los Angeles Clippers 98- Minnesota Timberwolves 101- Missed Opportunities

On Wednesday night, the Clippers topped the defending NBA champion Dallas Mavericks on a last-second shot by Chauncey Billups. Friday night, the sub-.500 Minnesota Timberwolves showed the Los Angeles Clippers how the Mavs felt, as Kevin Love hit a long three pointer to break a tie as time expired. How did one of the top teams in the Western Conference standings even get into position to allow Love an open attempt? Well, it went something like this:

After Blake Griffin scored on a putback of his own missed dunk, the Clippers led for the next 45+ minutes, until rookie point guard Ricky Rubio made his first field goal; a three-pointer that tied the game with exactly 20 seconds remaining. When Billups failed to score on a drive with only a few seconds remaining, Love snatched the rebound and the Timberwolves called a timeout with 1.5 seconds to go.

Watching live, it appeared to me that Kevin rebounded the ball, and then took a dribble before the timeout was called. In that case, the timeout would not be allowed to advance the spot of the inbounds pass. This makes a big difference. The spot where Minnesota recieved the ball was much, much better than the spot where Love dribbled the ball, all the way back at the Clippers' free throw line. But, the referees decided that Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman had called timeout before Love's dribble, so Luke Ridnour threw the inbounds pass from the frontcourt.

Here's some notes from the game:

  • Ricky Rubio: Despite being relatively quiet on the scoreboard, Rubio had his fingerprints all over this game. He shot only 1-11 from the floor, but his make was the aforementioned three pointer that tied the game with 20 seconds left. While Rubio did not score until midway through the final period, he still finished with 9 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals- stuffing the stat sheet as he has all season.
  • Injured Clippers: Still playing without Chris Paul (sore hamstring) and Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers also lacked starting small forward Caron Butler (hyperxtended knee) tonight. Paul and Butler should return soon, while Bledsoe is still several weeks away as he recovers from knee surgery.
  • ClipperWolves: Due to the injuries to Paul and Butler, former Timberwolves Randy Foye and Ryan Gomes started the game tonight. Billups, who has started every game this season when healthy, also played for the Wolves earlier in his career. These three Wolves-turned-Clippers combined for 43 points tonight, but only shot 14-32 from the field.
  • Three-Guard Lineup: Since the Clippers only had only one SF on the active roster tonight, Vinny Del Negro went to the three guard lineup for around 12 minutes. Hopefully, if Bulter is going to miss extended time, Olshey can find another forward.
  • Darko Milicic: Timberwolves starting center Darko Milicic, who is playing only 18 minutes a game this season, logged 34 tonight and crushed his previous season high of 12 with tonight's mark of 22 points. Yes, that would be nearly seven times his season average. He attempted 15 shots tonight, where he is averaging only four a game on the year. Milicic also beat his season averages in assists, rebounds, FG%, and blocks. Do they have jumbacos in Minesota? If so, he certainly will feast this week. Let's move on.
  • Mo Williams off the Bench: After having a terrific game off the bench against Dallas, where he made his first seven shots, Williams started the game tonight by... making his first seven shots. Early on, Mo was called for a technical foul when he slammed the ball into the floor after he was called for a push off. In the 4th quarter, Williams got caught arguing a foul call with the official. He might not have been ejected for his plea, but on PrimeTicket I could plainly hear a Clipper player yell that magic word that seems to garuntee a tech, and I assume that it was Mo. He finished with his second great performance in a row, scoring 25 points of 10-15 shooting while also logging 5 assists. I would like to know how this game ends if Williams isn't ejected and plays the last five minutes.
  • Statistical Dominance: Skimming the boxscore, you might think that the Clippers won this game. Los Angeles shot better FG, 3PT, and FT, and won the rebounding battle. But 18 turnovers while only logging 12 assists (on 33 made FGs is terrible) won't cut it. The Clips were also outscored 46-24 in the paint. Yikes.
  • Backup Center: It appears that Solomon Jones may have replaced Brian Cook in the rotation, to the relief of many members of Clips Nation. Jones logged 11 minutes tonight and blocked two shots while a healthy Cook never even took his warmups off. I will be interested to see how Jones fits into the rotation in the weeks to come.
  • The Big Picture: While a buzzer beater loss is ertainly devestating for this Clipper team, perhaps more concerning is how it affects the standings. Even though the Clips are still ahead of the Lakers for 1st in the Pacific division, a win tonight would have placed them in third place in the conference, ahead of San Antonio, who also lost tonight, and only 2% behind Denver for 2nd place. Wednesday's game agianst Staples Center's other basketball team could go a long way in determining who wins the division, and in turn, who gets home court in the playoffs. It will be crucial to have CP3 back for this game.

You can find the full boxscore here.

Chat with Minnesota fans at Canis Hoopus (unless you've been banned).