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Clippers Vs. Timberwolves Preview: Time To Press the Gas

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After a franchise-record 28-point comeback victory against the Celtics on Saturday, the 31-26 Clips travel to Minnesota to take on the 25-30 Timberwolves to try to keep up the momentum.

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

Game Information

Where: Target Center - Minneapolis, Minnesota

When: 5:00 p.m. PST

How to Watch: Fox Sports Prime Ticket

How to Listen: AM 570

Projected Starting Lineups

LA Clippers: Patrick Beverley, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Garrett Temple, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac

Minnesota Timberwolves: Jeff Teague, Josh Okogie, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Taj Gibson

Injuries

Clippers: Wilson Chandler (Quad) - Out, Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out

Timberwolves: Jerryd Bayless (Toe) - Questionable, Derrick Rose (Ankle) - Probable, Jeff Teague (Foot) - Probable, Robert Covington (ankle) - OUT, Tyus Jones (Ankle) - OUT, Jared Terrell (Ankle) - DTD

The Big Picture

That was a fun watch. Saturday’s 28 point come-from-behind victory against the Boston Celtics both set a record for largest comeback in franchise history and also potentially set a precedent for the rest of the season. An already deep team became deeper, and new additions in Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet and Garrett Temple contributed very well in their debuts. What this sets up is a true egalitarian approach for LA moving forward: the ability to go ten-deep and get nice contributions from everyone on any given night.

However, the Clippers have had problems carrying certain momentum throughout this season, and have followed tough wins with head-scratching losses. Now is the time to take advantage of both a softer schedule this month, and a nice week off to get better acquainted as a team. The message has been set by Doc that LA wants to win and make the playoffs. The pick doesn’t matter — winning does. These new, young pickups were not made to punt the rest of the season, they were made with the future and the present in mind. That showed Saturday in Boston, and if they keep their collective right foot down on the gas pedal, watch out for the Clips the rest of this season.

With the new configuration of the roster, players like Lou Williams and Danilo Gallinari will be looked to for even more of a scoring and leadership burden. Montrezl Harrell will also need to step up (which he did a great job of Saturday) and Patrick Beverley has to continue to be the vocal and emotional leader of the team. Responding to losing your best player is a key indication in how a season will turn. Look at the Indiana Pacers for example. After losing Victor Oladipo to injury, a brief losing streak ensued, but they are now riding a four-game win streak and remain the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Clippers can respond in a similar fashion and compete to stay in the playoff race.

L.A.’s first moment of adversity in the post-Tobias era was Saturday’s deficit, and they rose to the challenge. With three straight games against bottom four teams in the West upcoming, the Clips can start to creep up to the sixth or seventh spot in the playoffs and really try to go for it.

The Antagonist

The Minnesota Timberwolves have not been without drama this season: they have seen the exodus of their other All-Star in Jimmy Butler, and the firing of head coach (and president) Tom Thibodeau. Despite still receiving major contributions from two-time All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns and a surprise comeback season from Derrick Rose, the T-Wolves are struggling right now with staying consistent in the win column and with injuries. After receiving Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the trade for Butler, we have seen up-and-down play from Saric and a lingering ankle injury from Covington which severely limits their defensive capabilities. At 25-30, Minnesota and new rookie coach Ryan Saunders are on the outside looking in of the West playoff race and losing ground quickly. Currently riding a four-game losing streak, the Wolves are sputtering and desperately need a turnaround.

This of course is no fault of KAT, who is averaging 23.1 points and 12.1 rebounds a game and is still one of the premier young bigs in the league. Andrew Wiggins continues to be a big head-scratcher, as some games he looks like an All-Star, and in others a G-Leaguer. He is averaging 17.9 points per game but on a career low FG % of 39.6 percent. Wiggins does seem to always play well against LA so new addition Garrett Temple will have to play solid defense against the young scorer if LA wants to win.

With the injury to Rose, the Wolves will be looking for scoring elsewhere and will have to turn to rookie Josh Okogie for big minutes Monday as well as a potentially healthy Jeff Teague, who is probable for the game. This game has all the odor of a trap game for LA as it is the last game of a long road trip. The Clips tend to play down to their competition, so maintaining focus and energy throughout will be imperative to catch a win in the Midwest.

Notes

Maybe the quickest fan favorite ever?: Landry Shamet hit four threes in the fourth quarter after missing his first three. His performance in the fourth was the spark for the Clippers’ massive comeback, and kudos to Doc Rivers for scheming up some plays for the brand new 21-year-old to get him open. Similar to J.J. Redick, all Shamet needs is a bit of space and his shot is going up.

Clippers finally have their big?: It’s comical how silly it was for the Lakers to sell so low on Ivica Zubac. His per 36 minutes are borderline all-star figures: 19.6 points, 11.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists, and 1.9 blocks per game. He’s 7’1” with some range and a great free-throw percentage (86.4) and is only 21 years of age. He showed his worth in Boston, going for 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks in 23 minutes on 5-for-10 shooting. With the Timberwolves being a pretty big team (Taj Gibson and KAT always seem to kill the Clips), having a presence down low is huge for L.A. moving forward.

Beverley continues to come up big: Pat Beverley has come a long way since the start of the season. Largely seen as an offensive detriment at the beginning of the season (shooting 24% and 33% from three in your first two months will do that), and a foul-prone and perhaps overly aggressive defender due to new rules, Bev has been a huge positive as of late. He is stuffing stat sheets and becoming the de-facto leader of this younger team. He is now shooting 39 percent from three for the season and has become a smarter, more efficient defender. With him back in the starting lineup, the Clips are winning and showing more energy.

Three 20-point comebacks on the road: Becoming the first team in nearly 25 years to achieve three 20-point comebacks in five games is pretty amazing. To do this all on the road is even more impressive. I’d like to not have another roller coaster of a game Monday, but it’s nice knowing that no matter how much the Clips are down, they are never out.