Despite being without the services of DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Danilo Gallinari, and Patrick Beverley, the LA Clippers had a real opportunity to add another win to their 7-3 record in January. The Minnesota Timberwolves were without Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford, and entered the night with a 11-12 road record. The Clippers had just come off a very tough loss in Utah on Saturday night, but the stage was set for this group to get back on track.
It was an unconventional-but-fun game that had 12 ties, 22 lead changes, a Blake Griffin triple-double, a 40-point Andrew Wiggins performance, and two coach ejections. Despite continuing to find ways to manufacture offense, and despite managing to keep the game within their grasp in the final minute, poor defensive decisions and careless mistakes ultimately ruined the Clippers’ chances. The Timberwolves pulled ahead and secured a solid road win, sending the Clippers back down to the .500 mark and 9th place in the Western Conference.
Getting to the Line
Perhaps the single-biggest factor in tonight’s matchup was foul shooting. The Clippers, who entered the night 2nd in the NBA in both personal fouls drawn (22.4) and free throw attempts per game (25.4), did not play with quite the same aggressive, downhill mindset they have all month long. The Clippers attempted just 22 free throws and made just 15 of them. The Timberwolves, however, attempted 39 and made 33.
Part of the problem may have been opting to bring Lou Williams off the bench. While he played 36 minutes tonight, about the same amount he’s played in the entire month of January, getting him going early might have created earlier opportunities to get into the bonus and made a difference down the stretch. Williams went to the free throw line just once tonight, making one of two shots. But Blake Griffin and Montrezl Harrell were the lone aggressors for the Clippers at the rim, taking 7 and 8 free throw attempts, respectively. As a team, the Clippers settled for more contested mid-range jumpers than usual (especially Wesley Johnson), and maybe looked to pass out of the paint more often than they should have. Tonight’s lack of free throw shooting was an aberration, so expect this facet of their game to return to form on Wednesday night.
Second Chance Opportunities
The Timberwolves have been a very good offensive rebounding team this season, ranking 6th in the NBA and averaging 10.5 per game entering the night. This was on full display tonight, where they pulled down 18 offensive boards versus the Clippers’ 8, tallying 21 second-chance points. The Timberwolves also won the total rebounding battle, 47-40.
Outside of Griffin, who had 12 of the team’s 40 boards, not a single Clipper player had more than 6 rebounds. In fact, the four starters other than Griffin combined for just 11 total rebounds. The presence of DeAndre Jordan had certainly been missed in the 4 prior games he missed, but none more than in tonight’s, where the Clippers sorely needed his defensive rebounding and defensive communication. It remains to be seen whether or not he will return Wednesday night (or be traded), but this is an area the Clippers will need to continue to improve upon as a team. The Clippers entered the night ranking just 16th in rebounds per game (43.3) and 19th in defensive rebounds per game (33.0).
Boston Celtics @ LA Clippers
When: Wednesday 01/24, 7:30pm PST
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, CA
How to Watch/Listen: ESPN, Fox Prime Ticket, AM 570