The Clippers managed to start off the second half of the season with a whimper Tuesday night on Staples Center, dropping one in ugly fashion to the Minnesota Timberwolves. Check out the box score here.If I told you before the game that Chris Paul and Blake Griffin would score 27 & 30 points respectively (on 21-36 shooting), you would think they had a nice chance of winning this game right? How bout if I added Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio would score a combined 12 points on 5 of 21 shots? Think the Clippers might have a chance in that one? Still not enough? How bout if I told you Deandre Jordan would outscore Nikola Pekovic? Now we're talking right? Truth is you would be hard pressed to find a hoops fan outside of the Twin Cities who wouldn't pick the Clippers to win a game like that. But tonight, none of that mattered, as the Clippers threw away a few great performances and several opportunities to put the game away,and lost a very winnable game on their home floor to Minnesota Timberwolves.
Let me first say that I am high on the Timberwolves. I am very high on Love and Ricky Rubio, and Adelman is one of two coaches in the league who I actually think highly of. I think they have a great chance of sneaking into the playoffs as the 8 seed THIS year. That I consider this a winnable game for the Clippers is not to dismiss this Minnesota team which has a great deal of young talent and has already beaten us once this year. All that said, The Clippers are a better basketball team, and they need to win this type of game, especially at home. In the first quarter, Blake Griffin went off, scoring 18 points despite missing two alley-oop dunks at the rim and 2 free throws. In other words, the 2 time all star brought his A-game. Minnesota had no answer, and Kevin Love was clearly overmatched in the block. The Clippers play in the early going was encouraging, with Griffin scoring, commanding a double team, followed by the Clippers showing some good ball movement. The defense looked fine in the early going, with Minnesota settling for Jumpers (outside of Nikola Pekovic, who is an absolute beast in the paint). Griffin had a little help in the first quarter, with Paul and Mo each connecting on 2 shot attempts. The Clipper All Stars looked no worse for wear following a busy weekend , and it looked like they may be able to cruise to an easy victory, heading into the second quarter up 31-22. But The Clippers failed to put the pressure of the Wolves, letting them hang around thanks to porous, uninspired defense in the second quarter. Minnesota cut the lead to just three at the half, getting some big minutes off the bench from Michael Beasley and Derrick WIlliams. The Clips would jump on Minnesota early in the third quarter, again with a chance to break the spirit of the visiting team. But the Wolves answered back and played the quarter to a draw, down only 3 heading into the final period. Then disaster struck. The Wolves simply decided they wouldn't miss any more shots. The Clippers had no answer
for Beasley and Derrick WIlliams, who each score 13 points in the 4th quarter, scoring on iso after iso. It's the kind of game that is absolutely maddening to watch as a fan, because the Clippers simply couldn't find an answer. In the end, it was the Timberwolves who succeeded in breaking their opponents will.
It's a bad loss for the Clippers, but hopefully one that lights a fire under them going into this road trip.
While the Timberwolves bench was other worldy tonight, the Clippers, outside of Paul, DJ, and Blake were absolutely atrocious. Ryan Gomes was replaced by Bobby Simmons, who was ineffective off the bench tonight and didn't look particularly confident in his game (we wont hold that against him in his first night back in the league). Caron Butler, who I am convinced is playing through injuries, was 1-10 tonight. Randy Foye, 5-13. Mo WIlliams, 4-12. Kenyon Martin, 0-2. Not going to get it done.
I really like Randy Foye. I think hes a good dude. I think he plays hard. I even like having him on the bench. But the Clippers have to be realizing that they need to acquire another starting two guard (or a starting 3 and push Butler to the 2). Randy is not getting it done on offense and the Clippers are struggling as a result. I have spent more time on the ESPN trade machine in the last week that I would care to admit.
This guy knows how to coach. He has this team in contention for the playoffs without really having all the personnel to make his offense click. Adelman loves to run sets off the high post, with his bigs setting on ball screens for guards, off ball screens from the high post for back cuts, and ideally, running sets where back cutters catch
passes from a big at the high post. He doesn't have that passing big man yet (his last Yugoslavian/Serbian Center was a significantly more gifted passer than Pekovic), and he doesn't really much outside shooting. Yet he has found other ways to get his team points, and they play some defense too, despite lacking an imposing shot
blocker/alterer. As Rubio and Love get better and the right pieces are put around them, this team could end up being quite a force, much like those kings teams in the early 2000's.
Vinny Del Negro:
I just don't know. First of all, who picked out your tie tonight? Fire them. Second of all, the offense. We have been seeing some better things, ball movement around the perimeter off of double teams. The pick n roll between Paul and Griffin is improving. But we do seem to get into stretched where we don't know quite what we want to do. Then again, it's a little tough to critique the coach/offense when you're two starting wings and Mo WIlliams go a combined 10-35 from the floor and shoot zero free throws. That's right zero free throws. Defensively, I see a team that is not pressuring the opposing offense enough. This team is good when it gets stops, forces turnovers, and pushes the ball. Find a way to make that happen Vinny.
Blake Griffin Free Throw watch:
10-14 from the line for Blake tonight, and I thought his release looked much better and more fluid. Encouraging start heading into the second half. I think Blake will shoot closer to 70% going forward.
LA STARS Jerseys:
Still Awesome. And where can I get that cardigan warm up??
Looking Forward to seeing how this team plays when it gets back on the road. Next game is at Sacramento on