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Spirited Clippers Fall to Timberwolves 112-106

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Despite an impressive effort from Austin Rivers and Lou Williams, the Clippers lost to the Timberwolves Sunday night at Target Center.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Behind a big fourth quarter from Jimmy Butler and a solid overall effort from Taj Gibson, the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Los Angeles Clippers 112-106 on Sunday night in Minneapolis.

On the heels of Saturday’s disastrous shellacking at the hands of the lowly Mavericks, the Clippers really had nowhere to go but up tonight. Despite the loss, LAC put forth a valiant effort here tonight.

Austin Rivers was a man possessed, as he finished with a season-high 30 points along with five rebounds and five assists. The coach’s son hit nine of his 14 shots from the field, including seven of 10 tries from deep. The Clips also got 23 points and 10 assists out of Lou Williams, who remains one of the few steady contributors on the offensive end of the floor. The Clippers also got 17 points and 12 rebounds out of DeAndre Jordan, who continues to put up solid numbers without Blake Griffin.

Unfortunately, the Clippers had no answers for Butler down the stretch. Minnesota got subpar games out of Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Jeff Teague, but Butler rescued the Wolves in the late stages. He finished the night with 33 points, eight boards and four assists in 40 minutes of work. He did plenty of his damage from the charity stripe, from which went 11-13. Towns, Wiggins and Teague combined to shoot just 13-38 from the field, yet Minnesota still prevailed.

Gibson contributed 20 points and 11 rebounds, while no other T-Wolves starter had more than Towns’ 15 points.

1st Quarter

Austin Rivers came out hot in this one, as he knocked down each of his first three attempts from the floor and accounted for the Clippers’ first eight points. There was a noticeable uptick in energy from the Clips immediately following yesterday afternoon’s debacle in Dallas.

Minnesota jumped out to a fairly big lead midway through the frame, only for a group of L.A. reserves to mount a 7-0 run in order to get back into it. Lou Williams, who came off the bench in an attempt to bolster Doc Rivers’ second unit offense, scored six quick points as a part of LAC’s mini surge.

After shooting a putrid 34 percent as a team against the Mavericks, the Clippers shot a tidy 52.6 percent over the first 12 minutes against the Timberwolves. Unfortunately, Minnesota also shot 52 percent on their way to 31 first quarter points. The Wolves also turned three Clipper turnovers into six fast break points, while Minnesota failed to turn the ball over at all in the first period.

Sam Dekker’s shooting woes continued, as he hit just one of his first three shots, though the two misses were plenty makable. If he’s not hitting open looks, he’s not giving you much while he’s out there.

2nd Quarter

Offense wasn’t as easy to come by to begin the second for the Clips, but they continued to play active and aggressive defense, which forced Minnesota into some low percentage attempts. Fortunately, things got better on the offensive end once Austin came back into the game.

Rivers caught fire upon his re-insertion into the game, as he dumped in 12 second quarter points, including a trio of three-pointers. He finished the half 7-9 from the floor and scored 20 points. Not too shabby for a guy that had scored 20 or more points in an entire game three times all year coming in.

On the other side, the Clippers were having problems keeping Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj GIbson from getting whatever they wanted inside. The Wolves’ starting frontcourt combined to contribute 28 points on 66 percent shooting over the course of the game’s first 24 minutes. LAC was additionally only able to force one turnover in the half.

Williams also played the final 18 minutes of the half without coming out. Frankly, Doc couldn’t afford to sit him, even on the second half of a back-to-back. Sweet Lou picked up four assists along with nine points as he essentially served as the Clippers’ offensive hub throughout the half.

At the break, L.A. trailed 60-55.

3rd Quarter

The Wolves came out of the break with the clear gameplan of getting Andrew Wiggins going offensively, but it wasn’t working. The former No. 1 overall pick couldn’t buy a bucket. He knocked down just two of his first 10 shots and missed each of his first four attempts from beyond the long line.

Meanwhile, Rivers remained unconscious. He drained another triple halfway through the third to give the Clippers an unlikely 66-65 lead. That equaled his season-high of 25 points with 18 minutes still to play.

Every time the Wolves looked like they were going to start pulling away, the Clippers would string together a few stops. At the end of three, the Clips were hanging around, trailing 78-76.

4th Quarter

LAC started the game’s final frame with a lineup consisting solely of reserves, yet promptly took the lead after easy buckets from Dekker, Jawun Evans and Montrezl Harrell. Jamal Crawford subsequently banked a three to restore the lead for Minnesota, which was both shocking and the opposite of shocking at the same time.

After that, Jimmy Butler decided to take over. With Towns serving as little more than a passenger down the stretch, and with Wiggins continuing to lay bricks, Butler took charge of the offense. The All-Star swingman scored 14 points in the first 10 minutes of the period, including a driving layup over DeAndre Jordan to give the Wolves a 106-100 advantage.

Butler finally missed, however, and the ensuing possession resulted in a huge three-pointer by Jamil Wilson to cut Minnesota’s lead in half. Unfortunately, Butler’s confidence was unfazed, and the All-Star forward put the Wolves back up by five with a driving layup the next time down. Butler sealed the game with a few more free throws, and that was that.

Reaction

Despite the loss, this was still a positive effort from the Clippers. Jamil Wilson and C.J. Williams drew spot starts, but there’s no telling how Doc Rivers will play that situation moving forward.

The Clippers were able to stay in the game thanks to some hot shooting. LAC shot better than 50 percent from the floor in this one, and also drilled 15 of their 34 attempts from long range. The three-point shooting is obviously unsustainable, but it was still a positive to see such a strong effort after the calamitous loss to the Mavericks about 24 hours ago.

LAC will get a few days off before running it back against these same Timberwolves in Wednesday night in downtown L.A.