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Preview: Clippers take on upstart Timberwolves in Minnesota

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With their sights set on the playoffs, the Clippers head to Minneapolis for the final time this season.

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

2015-16 NBA Regular Season
vs
Minnesota Timberwolves (25-49)

Los Angeles Clippers (46-27)
March 30, 2016 — 5:00 PM PT
Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Prime Ticket, KLAC 570 AM, KWKW 1330 AM
Win-Loss Breakdown ('15-'16)
25-49 Record 46-27
11-19 East 21-8
14-30 West 25-19
10-6 Division 7-6
13-24 Home 25-12
12-25 Road 21-15
10-28 .500+ 23-18
15-21 .500– 30-9
3-3 OT 4-1
5-5 L10 5-5
Projected Starters
Ricky Rubio PG Chris Paul
Zach LaVine SG J.J. Redick
Andrew Wiggins SF Luc Mbah a Moute
Gorgui Dieng PF Jeff Green
Karl-Anthony Towns C DeAndre Jordan
Efficiency Stats ('14-'15)
97.6 (19th) Pace 98.2 (13th)
104.2 (11th) OffRtg 106.3 (6th)
107.1 (27th) DefRtg 101.4 (7th)
-2.9 (23rd) NetRtg 4.9 (5th)
Injury Report

Nikola Pekovic (Achilles) Out

Kevin Garnett (Old/Knee) Out

Blake Griffin (Suspension) Out

Paul Pierce (Ankle) Doubtful

What's new with the Clippers?

The Clippers, despite not having a whole lot to play for these days, are coming off an incredibly impressive win over a Celtics team that is scratching and clawing for playoff seeding in the East. Unlike the last time they saw Boston, the Clippers seized the lead early in the first and never looked back on their way to a 24-point beatdown of the Celts. They didn't get through it unscathed, though, as Paul Pierce went down with a nasty looking ankle injury. The Truth isn't likely to play tonight against Minnesota or tomorrow in Oklahoma City.

With just nine games to go and the No. 3 seed likely out of reach, the top priority for Doc Rivers and company will be to get through this final stretch of the season without any additional injuries. Reincorporating Blake Griffin, who is slated to return Sunday against the Wizards, is also of great importance. He's going to take some time to get back into game shape and shake off some rust, and here's hoping he can come close to finding form come playoff time.

What's new with the Timberwolves?

Bill Simmons tweeted Monday night that these T'Wolves have a bit of a 2009 Thunder feel to him, and he's not wrong. 2009 was the year before the Durant-Westbrook-Harden-Ibaka Thunder established themselves as a force in the West, and Minnesota appears poised to make a similar leap sometime soon.

At the center of it all is Karl-Anthony Towns, who is putting together one of the greatest rookie seasons the NBA has ever seen. In 71 games so far this season, KAT is averaging over 18 points and 10 rebounds along with nearly two blocks per game. He's also shooting about 55% from the floor on the year, and it's not like he's doing all of his damage within five feet of the rim. Towns has range that extends to the three-point line, as he's canned about 34% of his longballs, too. There really isn't anything he can't do. Towns should be an All-NBA staple for at least the next decade.

But that's not all! Ricky Rubio is also playing the best ball of his career. Zach LaVine, now that the Wolves have mercifully halted the "let's make him a point guard" experiment, is thriving alongside Rubio at the two spot. Last year's Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins, is still rough around the edges but is averaging nearly 21 points in his second campaign. Gorgui Dieng, despite being a center, has forged a nice little big-to-big symmetry since being inserted into the starting unit alongside Towns.

A combination of youth (Rubio is the oldest player in this group - and he's 25) and questionable coaching from Sam Mitchell has kept the Wolves from doing more winning this season, but that'll change before long. Flip Saunders' tragic passing just before the season essentially forced Minnesota to just implement Mitchell as the season-long replacement, and many figure they'll hire a more long-term option come summer. They're also going to have another top-10 draft pick to add to their already loaded core, which will make the Timberwolves downright terrifying in the very near future. Bright days ahead, indeed.

Matchup to watch

DeAndre Jordan vs. Karl-Anthony Towns

Towns and his aforementioned stretchability is an interesting matchup for Jordan, who prefers to stay in or near the paint defensively. The rookie also has the cat-like (heh) quickness to take his man off-the-dribble, which is a tool he'll use a lot against his typical slower defender. D.J. has the lateral quickness to stay with him, though, which may help negate that weapon in KAT's arsenal.

In case you haven't been able to watch him much - the Wolves aren't on national TV a whole lot - Towns is a big reason to watch this game considering the Clips aren't playing for a whole lot.

Battle of the bench

One of the kids on Minnesota's roster that doesn't get as much attention is UCLA product Shabazz Muhammad. The Clippers were rumored to be interested in Shabazz earlier in the season, but obviously nothing came of it. He only plays about 20 minutes a night for the Wolves off the bench, but he's a toolsy athlete with a funky offensive game. Muhammad is a wing, and even though he doesn't go to it very, he's actually the Wolves' most efficient post scorer in terms of points per possession (1.05) this season. He's really the only noteworthy bench cog for Minnesota these days.

With his team playing the first half of a back-to-back Doc Rivers may decide he wants to rest a few of his regulars in this game. If that's the case, we could be in for an oversized load of Austin Rivers and Cole Aldrich. Buckle up!

Game day song of choice

Prince was the top choice the last time yours truly previewed a game against the Timberwolves, so we'll go with the other noteworthy Minnesota-based musical act for this one:

The Clippers and Wolves will tip things off from Target Center at 5pm PT on Prime Ticket.