The Los Angeles Clippers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves in an exciting game that came down to the very last second 10 days ago in L.A. The teams meet again tonight in Minneapolis, and the Wolves will be looking to avenge their heartbreaking loss.
Before the first game, EricinMadison, the editor of SBNation's Timberwolves blog Canis Hoopus, and I exchanged some questions. Since the results of that pair of Q&A's were so recent, we decided to do things a little different this time, and we scheduled some time for an online chat where we could be more interactive. The results are below.
Steve: I didn't prep anything, but I'm pretty good off the cuff. You write for the Timberwolves, right? This guy Love plays there, IIRC...
Eric: Yep. He's still around, at least for the next season or two. Didn't see it, but looked like a tough one for your guys against Memphis. Z-Bo going off and your perimeter guys not hitting.
Steve: Yeah, CP3, Redick and Jamal 11-38...
that's not good... After years of watching basketball, I've concluded that you win more games when the shots go in
Grizz defense is good... but most of those were just misses. By far Redick's worst game as a Clipper. He just couldn't hit anything.
Eric: Yeah, making shots is sort of important. I watched the Blazers last night, and they won easily because they made a ton of shots, despite not really doing much else.
Steve: I haven't watched that Blazers team yet... not sure what to think about them...
Eric: I might be wrong in the end, but they don't really impress me. Their FGA distribution is not good. I was researching this today because I saw them last night: their ratio of shots attempted from 8-23 feet is very high. They have some guys who can shoot those, but it isn't a long term recipe for success.
Plus they are making 3s at an unsustainable rate
Steve: I agree... it's an interesting discussion for our purposes too, because Blazers and Wolves are the two most likely "party crashers" joining the six West teams that seem like probable playoff teams...
But whereas Portland doesn't really seem real to me, Wolves seem very real indeed
Isn't it the longest current playoff drought? It's gotta feel good to see them looking so strong.
Eric: Blazers, Wolves, Mavs. The West is nuts. Currently 17 games over .500, which, if extrapolated all year, would make the average Western Conference team 45-37. Crazy. I hope the Wolves are real; most of the stuff they are doing seems sustainable, at least at some level. They won't maintain an 8+ point differential, but they should stay good.
Playoff drought is 10 years now. It feels great to see good basketball. There has been a lot of misery around here for a long time (which I know you know about too).
Steve: We could spend a long time on misery... actually, that old Sam Cassell-Marko Jaric trade happened near the beginning of the bad years in MIN... all the years of lottery protection seemed irrelevant at the time, cuz KG was there and they always made the playoffs. So weird.
Eric: Yep. That was not a good trade. And it really was the beginning of the end of the KG era. They had gotten to the WCF with Cassell, then it all fell apart.
So that first matchup between our teams was a pretty exciting and well-played tilt; hopefully we'll see more of the same.
Steve: It was a good game. Every time it seemed like the Clippers would put it away, the Wolves would come right back.
I wasn't sure if that said more about the Wolves or more about the Clippers
Eric: I was really proud of the Wolves that night. No moral victories, but they had a bunch of chances to pack it in against a good team. One thing I noticed that night and wanted to ask you about: it looks to me like Blake Griffin has improved his touch around the basket; he looks more confident to me. Is that something you've noticed?
Steve: He still has a ways to go, but he does some things better without a doubt. He was a very right-handed player his first couple seasons. He's not great with his left yet, but he can use it some now, and it opens up a few more options. He's also going quicker most of time, not hesitating as much. He still looks a bit too improvised in the post for my tastes -- I'd love it if he had a Kevin Love type jump hook that looks textbook and he shoots the same every time -- but he's getting there. His counters, like reverses and up-and-under are pretty darn good at this point.
Regarding Love, I was previously of the opinion that he was a "good" perimeter shooter. You know, good for a 4 kind of thing. Am I wrong? Is he actually a "great" shooter?
Eric: It's interesting. He has his spots, particularly on the left wing, where he is terrific, What's great about it is that it isn't just wide open spot ups he makes; he has a deadly step back off a ball screen move from that spot that he makes with regularity, which is a tough shot. However, he isn't nearly as good from the right side of the floor. It's a glaring difference, and I wonder when and if teams will figure out how to take advantage of that.
Steve: Interesting... I hadn't noticed that before, but now that you mention it...
OH OH... I just took a look at Pek's game log. Looks like Clippers woke him from his funk...
Eric: Back to that first game our teams played, the only real disappointment (other than CP3's flopping) was the final play; Adelman has been great at designing last second plays, but on that one Martin hesitated outside the arc and could only get that contested jumper. The miss by Love at the buzzer was a killer too.
Yeah, Pek is really rolling now. It was only a matter of time; IIRC I told you in our 5 questions Q and A last time that he was mostly just missing shots he normally makes. He's killing people now. Just dominating.
Steve: The Love miss was a complete shock. Obviously he rushed it, but I bet he makes that 95 times out of 100, rushed or not.
And yes, you nailed the Pek question. I was wondering if there was a fit issue, but clearly not. He has always killed the Clippers too. He's a best
I had a question about the Corey Brewer leak outs...
Clippers stole one, maybe even two long passes... Brewer finally got one late off a made basket (got some off of turnovers, but that's a different thing)... I would assume that once that's in the scouting report, it would dry up a bit. Has that been happening, or is it still effective three weeks in?
Eric: It's definitely drying up now. Brew is still getting almost half of his used plays via transition, but the leak outs are drying up. It does take a lot of energy for opponents to stop it though. On the down side, the Wolves desire to run is having a negative effect on their defensive rebounding, which has been fairly poor.
Steve: The rebounding is why most teams don't do that sort of thing. I figured Adelman thought it was worth it on the assumption that Love was going to get every rebound anyway...
Eric: Yeah, plus Brewer has never been a great rebounder for a small forward, so you aren't losing a ton by sending him, but he's always been a great and tireless runner, so it is trying to make best use of the available talent.
Steve: I still like it... but the element of surprise is lost at this point. Coaches are going to be in guys faces if it happens. Doc was beside himself when he finally got one in the fourth last game.
Eric: You ever notice how offensive and defensive rebounding don't really correlate? You guys are 3rd in OREB% but 23rd in DREB%. Wolves are something like 9th and 25th. This happens a lot. I assume because offensive rebounding is more of a tactical choice (sending another guy to the glass, etc).
Steve: It is a tactical choice, but the irony is that Doc has usually been on the "transition D > o rebounding" side of the fence
DeAndre Jordan just happens to be getting a ton of Offensive boards.
Eric: Question: seems to me that the Clippers have fallen behind in a good number of their wins--I remember Houston, OKC...then stormed back to win. Is this true, and is there a reason for it?
Yeah, Doc presiding over a good offensive rebounding team is strange to see.
Steve: It's absolutely true... they've had more lackluster first halves this season than good ones, to be honest. It seems (and this is pure pop psychology) that they just are coming into games flat, not taking them seriously enough until they are behind.
they lost some they should have won when they never woke up... they woke up in time to beat HOU, OKC, BRK, etc.
One of Doc's goals is to get the team to that more reliable, steady state where you know what to expect. Not there yet obviously.
Question for you: Robbie Hummel, eh? I assume this means the bench production issues are not resolved just yet.
Eric: Ha, no. Adelman has essentially pared it down to 3 guys off the bench: Barea (who has looked better the last couple of games), Cunningham, and Hummel, who is basically a low-mistake low-impact guy. (Neat to see a guy like that get his shot after all his knee problems). Only playing 8 means there is always at least 2 starters on the floor, which makes things better, but it's too short a rotation for the long term. Hopefully the return of Budinger and Turiaf will help. But no, the bench is still not ideal.
Derrick Williams is out of the rotation for now. Talk about a guy who needs a trade.
Steve: I imagine that if Doc shortened his rotation down to 8 it would help... but he doesn't seem to want to do that. Not yet anyway. So the Clippers bench remains a problem too. Lamar Odom may be on his way, which will help if he can play defense like he did last season.
Williams may never find his NBA fit... but he still has the potential to be pretty good if he did.
Eric: Well, I'd kill for wing depth like Crawford and Barnes (ok, maybe not, but still). Seems like the bigs are still a problem. I'll believe it when I see it from Odom. Absolutely rooting for him to get it together, but his game and life have seemed like such a mess for the last 18 months. Williams...there are a lot of weaknesses there. I'm hopeful there are still teams that see him as a guy who could put it together, but it's been hard to watch.
Steve: LA's bigs off the bench are so bad, the fans have put a lot of hope into Odom... but yeah, there's no guarantee that he'll help after all that he's been through. Fingers crossed.
Eric: Ok, so what are we expecting from this game? The Wolves (as they seemingly always are) will be on the back end of a back to back, but will be at home where they are 5-1. I really like the Rubio-Paul matchup because it's such a good measureing stick for Rubio. Thought he did well last time til getting whistled for 4 fouls in the 3rd quarter.
Steve: Last thing for you... Rubio is incredibly effective for a guy who can't shoot. But unlike say Rondo, who has no range but can finish drives, Ricky is also a terrible finisher. Will he get better at that? And how long before defenses simply play the pass 100% on him and dare him to make a layup if he doesn't? (By the way, I ADORE Rubio and think it's a testament to how great a player he is in all other aspects that he's so effective without being able to make shots.)
Ooops... I was asking a question at the same time...
Honestly? I expect a Wolves win. They're at home, and while they'll have the disadvantage of the B2B, they'll be super motivated to avenge the loss in LA.
Eric: Yeah, it's really hard to say on Rubio. I do think eventually he will improve around the basket, but for a guy with such great touch passing the ball, it just isn't there on shots. Teams do play the pass almost entirely at this point, and he still gets the ball where it needs to be. That and his defense makes him effective, but making some shots from somewhere has to be next for him.
Steve: Pek absolutely kills the Clippers, and Love is Love. Those guys will put up big numbers.
As we said before the first meeting, foul trouble could definitely change things. Both teams are dependent on their first units, and if a key guy gets into foul trouble, it will have an impact.
Eric: Question for your readers: Seems like our two teams have had several memorable games over the past couple of years--the D-Will explosion game, the Love game winner, the terrific one last week. Plus there are good individual matchups: Love-Griffin, Paul-Rubio...do you guys find the Wolves a fun team to play? I really like the Clippers games, they are almost always entertaining.
Steve: Similar to Rubio using Paul as a measuring stick, I think Griffin and Love like to go against each other, to see how they measure up.
That Love game-winner was such a killer... not to mention that Williams game. That season was rough against you guys.
But yeah, we enjoy the matchup with the Wolves. The fact that KLove played at UCLA means that he has some fans here from before.
And I think at this point basketball fans (a) like to watch Rubio and Love and Adelman's offense and (b) have to pull for them, a little, given all the injuries.
Eric: So I'll plan to stop by the thread at Clip Nation to answer any questions from your readers, and I know you always come by to hang out and answer stuff from other fans.
Steve: Absolutely... I'll drip by during the day. I can't handle being on game threads -- get too nervous. But I'll stop in periodically on game day to check this thread and answer questions that come up.
This was fun... Good luck tomorrow night. Hopefully we get another close one!
I'll drop by... not drip by. No one wants that.
The same chat will be posted at Canis Hoopus -- but it might be worth checking it out to see what the comment section is like. I've told them that I'd stop by to answer their questions, and Eric will be coming by here to do the same. So if you've got questions that didn't get addressed in the chat, leave them in the comments and Eric will do his best to answer them.