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Clippers at Timberwolves Preview: Can Minnesota Stop LAC’s Attack?

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The Clippers look to improve to 4-1 on their road trip Friday night in Minneapolis.

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

Game Info

Where: Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota

When: 6:30pm PT

How to Watch/Listen: ESPN, Prime Ticket, AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

Timberwolves - Andrew Wiggins, Jarrett Culver, Josh Okogie, Robert Covington, Karl-Anthony Towns

Clippers - Terance Mann/Rodney McGruder, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Moe Harkless, Ivica Zubac

Injuries

Timberwolves - Jeff Teague Questionable (ankle), Keita Bates-Diop Questionable (illness)

Clippers - Patrick Beverley Out (concussion), Kawhi Leonard Probable (back-to-back), JaMychal Green Questionable (tailbone), Landry Shamet Out (ankle), Rodney McGruder Probable (hamstring), Lou Williams Out (calf)

The Big Picture

The Clippers picked up one of their best wins of the season the other night in Kawhi Leonard’s return to Toronto. LAC methodically blew out the defending champs by 20 points despite losing Patrick Beverley to a concussion early in the second half. This is the Clippers’ first real road trip of the year, and so far they’ve bounced back nicely after beginning things with a horrific blowout loss in Milwaukee.

The Clippers will look to improve to 4-1 on the trip tonight before heading to Chicago to wrap things up tomorrow night.

UPDATE: Lou Williams has also been ruled out for tonight’s game with a calf issue, so the Clippers will be quite shorthanded in the backcourt tonight.

Lou Williams or Terance Mann could be in line for a start tonight with Beverley sitting out, but we’ll see. It’s an interesting matchup regardless considering Minnesota doesn’t typically start a traditional point guard, either. Jeff Teague has been moved to a sixth man role off the bench with Andrew Wiggins manning plenty of the playmaking duties for the Wolves’ starting group.

Rodney McGruder is expected to play tonight, which should be a boost to a bench unit that has struggled of late with Jerome Robinson having to play relatively big minutes in reserve. Landry Shamet is still sidelined with his sprained ankle, while Kawhi is likely to play tonight and miss tomorrow’s game.

The Opponent

As mentioned, Wolves head coach Ryan Saunders made a pretty noteworthy tactical adjustment while effectively ousting a traditional point guard from his starting unit. Teague will typically still see heavy minutes and close games even off the bench, but Wiggins has thrived in the new role. Teague is listed as questionable tonight, but I’d be surprised if he didn’t play.

The Clippers will have their hands full with Karl-Anthony Towns, obviously. Towns is averaging a relatively quiet 25.9 points, 11.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, and he has really improved his effort on the defensive side of the floor over the past couple of seasons. He’s no longer a laughingstock on that end, which is an upgrade. Ivica Zubac will have his hands full tonight, as chasing mobile bigs out beyond the 3-point line isn’t typically something he’s tasked with doing. It’ll be interesting to see how Doc Rivers tries to combat Towns’ size considering the Clippers’ proclivity for going small.

Notes

  • New Faces - The last time the Clippers faced the Timberwolves they ran out a starting lineup of Danilo Gallinari, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Garrett Temple, Zubac and Beverley. The Clips won the game 122-111 to officially clinch a playoff spot. Sindarius Thornwell played one minute. Wilson Chandler played 15. Yes, I completely forgot Wilson Chandler was on the Clippers at the end of last year.
  • Slumping Wolves - Minnesota has lost 6 consecutive games heading into tonight’s contest, a stretch that includes losses against likely non-playoff teams like Memphis, Oklahoma City and Phoenix. They also lost to Utah, which is pretty embarrassing.
  • Up-Tempo Game - The Wolves rank just 22nd in defensive rating this season, but they’re all the way up at No. 5 in pace factor. They’re not quite as fast or as bad defensively as the Wizards team the Clippers have put 285 points on the board against across 2 games, but I don’t expect scoring to be an issue for LAC in this one. In fact, Vegas has the Clippers projected to score 119.3 points tonight, which is the highest implied total of any of the 18 teams in action on Friday night.
  • The Matchups - As mentioned, I’ll be interested to see how the Clippers try and deal with Towns defensively. I’d like to see how Zubac can hold up, but potential foul trouble is an obvious concern here. Zubac, Montrezl Harrell and co. impressively held KAT to 6-for-17 shooting in their final meeting last season. Wiggins should get the Kawhi/PG-13 treatment tonight, while Minnesota doesn’t really have enough wing defenders to account for the Clippers’ star duo on the other end. Josh Okogie is a workable defender, but the Clips just have too many weapons.

Check back later for the Game Thread and Robert’s recap after what should be a fun game tonight up north.