The Clippers executed down the stretch and held on for a 110-106 victory on the road against the Minnesota Timberwolves last night that leaves them just a half game behind the 3-seed in the West. Though the Clippers struggled for large portions of the game, failing to get much production out of anyone not named DeAndre Jordan, the return of Chris Paul (ribs) and J.J. Redick (ankle) was crucial in securing a victory.
The shooting numbers for the starting backcourt were not what we've grown accustomed to (5/14 for Paul and 1/9 for Redick), but the floor spacing and that had been sorely missed in their absence returned, allowing DeAndre to have a monster game (20 points, 12 boards, 4 blocks) and their clutch free throw shooting was a necessity in the charity-stripe shootout that the game became late in the 4th quarter. The Clippers are clearly a different team with them on the court and after the game, it sounded like both players were happy to be back, even if they still need a little time to knock the rust off.
From the LA Times, J.J. Redick said:
"My wind was good tonight. It's about rhythm. I've had two separate weeks out of the last four weeks where I haven't been able to literally do anything with the basketball. It's tough to not do anything for seven days and then play."
When asked about how his ribs were feeling, Chris Paul downplayed the injury, saying (from Clippers.com):
"Made it through." Paul also alluded to the rust and late game execution, stating, "We made it uglier than it needed to be ... But the good thing about it is that we got some stops down the stretch."
Give these two a couple of days of good practice and a game or two to get their rhythm back and the offense should be looking better in no time. Regardless, it was reassuring to see them both back on the court so soon, as early estimates noted that Paul could be out for much longer, and having them back on the court gives the team a huge boost as they embark on one of their toughest road stretches of the entire season.