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Clippers Host Struggling Timberwolves, Seek to Start Five-Game West Coast Swing with a Win

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Clippers look to improve to 6-4 as they continue to test line-ups and improve chemistry.

NBA: Preseason-Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Game Information:

Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

When: 7:30 PM PT

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups:

Timberwolves: Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson, Tyus Jones, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins

Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Danilo Gallinari, Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanović

Injuries:

Timberwolves: Derrick Rose (Left Ankle) is Probable, Jeff Teague (Left Knee Contusion), and Justin Patton (Right Foot) are OUT.

Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (Sore left knee) is Questionable.

The Big Picture:

The Los Angeles Clippers (5-4) return to Staples Center Monday night to host the Minnesota Timberwolves (4-6). The Clippers have lost six straight regular season games to the Timberwolves, their longest active losing streak against a single opponent. The teams did meet up on October 3, 2018 during preseason play. Los Angeles claimed that contest 128-101. Notably, both Lou Williams and Avery Bradley sat out that game for the Clips.

Minnesota is visiting Los Angeles on the tail end of a back-to-back falling in the middle of a tough five-game road trip that has already featured demoralizing losses to both the Golden State Warriors (99-116) and the Portland Trail Blazers (81-111). The Clippers, in contrast, have not played since Friday’s 25-point road win against the Orlando Magic. They will be better rested, and in better spirits than their visitors, and should walk away with a victory.

The Antagonist

Minnesota is a sub-.500 team currently occupying eleventh place in the Western Conference. They have talent on their roster, including a number of guys with a demonstrated ability to score. Minnesota boasts seven players averaging double figures: Jimmy Butler (22.3), Karl-Anthony Towns (18.7), Andrew Wiggins (17.3), Derrick Rose (17), Jeff Teague (12.7), Josh Okogie (10.0) and Taj Gibson (10.3).

The problem? The Timberwolves’ defense is awful. They have given up 117.5 points per game so far this season (24th out of 30) and have a dismal defensive rating of 115.8 (29th of 30). Rebounding and sloppy play are also an issue for the Wolves. They have been out-rebounded by opponents by an average of 8.3 rebounds per game, and are averaging 12.3 turnovers. The Clippers should be able to capitalize on these weaknesses.

Off the court, the Timberwolves continue to deal with drama surrounding Jimmy Butler and his trade demands. Butler missed Wednesday’s game against the Utah Jazz due to rest, but is expected to play Monday after sitting out Sunday night’s blow-out loss to Portland.

Clip Notes:

Balanced and consistent scoring attack: The Clippers are getting solid contributions on offense from a number of players. Tobias Harris (21.1), Danilo Gallinari (19.8), Lou Williams (19.0), and Montrezl Harrell (12.0) are all averaging double-digits, with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (9.0) and Boban Marjanović (8.2) not far behind. Ball movement and unselfish play continue to be the keys to the Clippers’ scoring success. They are averaging 21.4 assists per game, and have the 7th best offensive rating in the NBA (112.6).

Best Bench in the NBA: Los Angeles leads the NBA in bench scoring at 57.7 points per game, with Lou Williams the top individual scorer off the bench, averaging 19.0 points per game. The Clippers’ depth and talent will continue to serve them well, health permitting, as the season moves along.

Sweet Lou is heating up: Sweet Lou Williams had a season high 28 points on Friday against Orlando, going five-for-five from behind the arc and hitting 9-of-10 from the free-throw line. The reigning sixth-man of the year is on a definite uptick, averaging 27.0 points over the Clippers’ last two games. Williams is shooting 44.9 percent from the field and 43.6 percent from downtown so far this season.

Need to reduce turnovers: Despite all their positives on offense, to ensure a spot in the playoffs this season the Clippers have to do a better job protecting the basketball. They are averaging an unacceptable 16.3 turnovers per game, due largely to telegraphing passes and sloppy ball handling.

Defense continues to excel: The Clippers have held opponents to 109.9 points per game and have a defensive rating of 106.9 (9th of 30). Thank Patrick Beverley and Avery Bradley for setting the tone. #ClampCity is real.

Starting Boban: Boban Marjanović made his first start as a Clipper in Friday’s match up against the Magic. He contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds in 22:31 minutes, notching a consecutive double-double for just the second time in his career. Fan favorite Marjanović currently ranks third in the NBA in shooting percentage within 10 feet of the basket, at 75.9 percent, and has been successful on the floor for the Clippers to date this season. Doc Rivers told media on Sunday that it is “most likely” Boban will start again against Minnesota, but noted he was not 100% sure. In preseason play, Marjanović had 15 points in 11 minutes against the Timberwolves.

The shake-up in the starting line-up has caused a bit of a flap but was a welcomed and necessary change. Marcin Gortat, who started at center in the Clippers’ first eight match-ups, has not been effective. The big man is averaging just 3.6 points, 5.5 rebounds in 16.6 minutes per game, and has been overshadowed in nearly every outing by both Marjanović and the energetic Montrezl Harrell.

Gortat raised eyebrows after Friday’s win by retweeting a post by a self-proclaimed Clippers’ “superfan” criticizing the change, which ended the Polish Hammer’s 172 consecutive start streak. Gortat’s ego may be bruised, but he has been around long enough to understand that a starting position in the NBA is never guaranteed. Expect him to step up his game moving forward to try and earn back his minutes.

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Join the game thread at 7:00 PM to discuss this Western Conference match-up!