They couldn’t do it again…..could they?! After three 20+ point comebacks in their last five games, the Clippers found themselves in similar waters tonight as their defense was non-existent and a recurring lack of a presence in the paint killed them. However, with a ridiculous scoring performance from Lou Williams, hot shooting from newbies JaMychal Green and Landry Shamet, and normal Montrezl Harrell energy, the Clips nearly did it again. It was not meant to be in the end, however, and the Clippers end the Grammy’s road trip 3-3, dropping this one to the Timberwolves 130-120.
The game started out well, as the Clips ran out to an 8-0 lead, but the lead was quickly erased with Taj Gibson and Karl Anthony-Towns beasting the young Clippers’ interior, and the Clips turning the ball over with reckless abandon. Lou had four first quarter turnovers, while shots weren’t really falling for anyone. Despite the lack of offense after the first few minutes, the Timberwolves weren’t hitting shots either outside of five feet, and thus only led 29-26 after the first frame.
The second quarter was a back and forth affair as the Clips went on 16-6 run to take a four point lead at one point, while the Wolves went on an 18-3 run late in the frame to finish the quarter up eight. The Wolves had 26 points off turnovers in the first half and were +24 in the paint (finished with 72 paint points). Despite the Clips making some shots and getting to the rack (shoutout Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who was being aggressive) the Clips just looked fatigued and were playing defense as such. Ivica Zubac looked like a 21-year-old tonight trying to guard KAT and Taj, and Garrett Temple was basically invisible despite playing some ok defense. The Clips were lucky to only have an eight point deficit at half.
The Clips are one of the worst third quarter teams in the league and that appeared to continue, eventually going down by 23 in the frame. That 20+ point deficit is L.A.’s sweet spot, somehow, and there was a feeling among Clips twitter and myself that they weren’t done. In a huge 19-5 run, Harrell, Lou and Shamet led the Clips back to a single digit deficit. The energy was back, the defense was there, Beverley was bringing it, and by the end of another 12 minutes the Clips were only down eight. This had all the makings of another comeback.
The only problem? The Clips could not string together stops to save their collective lives. Letting up 130 points to a lottery team without their second-leading scorer is never going to get you a win. L.A. did not go down without a fight, as Lou tried to play superhero — finishing with 45 points, scoring 34 in the second half after going 1-for-5 from the field in the first. Along with Trez and Shamet, Lou and the bench was +32 in bench scoring. A surprisingly tough game for Danilo Gallinari (2-for-10 from the field, 1-for-7 from three), and a questionable late game sub for Green, who was playing better did not help as L.A., despite some near late game heroics, dropped a 10 point game to Minnesota.
Ivica Zubac looked YOUNG: Whoa. Zub was a MINUS-35 in plus/minus tonight in just 15 minutes. He only scored three points and grabbed one rebound. This is the problem with having a really young starting center…inconsistency. KAT absolutely toyed with Zu inside all game. Zu will be O.K. moving forward, but will have to learn from games like this and beef up on the inside.
Turnovers and rebounds still a problem: You will rarely win a game committing 20+ turnovers. The Wolves won the turnover battle 21-13 tonight, and it especially killed L.A. in the first half and the beginning of the third quarter. The Wolves also smoked the Clips in the offensive rebounding category, 16-8, which has sadly been a trend this season, and was another large contributing factor to this loss.
Lou with the 40 burger: It’s truly remarkable how a 13-year-vet, at age 32, is putting up career numbers, but Lou continues to shine in a Clipper uniform, and tonight was no different. While he did have way too many turnovers, without his scoring this game would have been a 30-point blowout. 45 points on 25 shots is just ridiculous. Keep killin’ em sweet Lou.
Gallo has off night: Gallo could not find his shot tonight, and it looked as though he was playing a bit stiff. Coming off an injury that requires a lot of rest in back spasms, extensive travel doesn’t help. Gallo definitely missed his own bed tonight and I wouldn’t look into his bad shooting performance tonight.