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, Garrett Temple, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac
Minnesota Timberwolves: Tyus Jones, Josh Okogie, Andrew Wiggins, Dario Saric, Karl-Anthony Towns
Clippers: Luc Mbah a Moute (Knee) - Out, Landry Shamet (Ankle) - Questionable
Timberwolves: Taj Gibson (Calf) - Questionable, Derrick Rose (Elbow) - Out, Jeff Teague (Foot) - Out, Robert Covington (Knee) - Out, Luol Deng (Achilles) - Out
The Big Picture
The L.A. Clippers are rolling into the Western Conference playoffs (a place many in NBA media circles didn’t expect them to be at this juncture before the season) with nine games left on their schedule. Winners of 10 of 11 and five straight, L.A. is playing some of their best basketball of the season, and doing so with their normal egalitarian approach and some smart coaching from the potential Coach of the Year in Doc Rivers. This “everyone in” approach has done wonders this season, and is a big reason why the Clippers are overachieving despite trading away their best scorer at the deadline and getting rid of two veteran starters. It’s crazy to think that since the newbies joined the squad the Clips are 14-4 with three starters 22 years of age and younger. This season has been welcome surprise after welcome surprise and a true joy to watch. The Clippers have a relatively easy schedule coming in and could continue to surprise everyone by getting close — or reaching — 50 wins this season. Oh, and if the Clips win Tuesday night in Minneapolis, they are officially in the playoffs. I can hear Magic Johnson’s tears from his office in Staples all the way in the Northeast where I live *evil laugh*.
The month of March has been especially kind to Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Gallo has been playing lights out and taken over the role of lead starting scorer in Tobias Harris’ absence. He has a nine-game streak of 20+ points (a career high) and for the month is shooting 44.8 percent from three and 53.9 percent from the field — good for third in the NBA during March. Don McLean of Clippers broadcast fame said before the season that if Gallo stayed healthy and played 65 games, the Clips were a playoff team. That prophecy has proven correct, and Gallo is having the best season of his career across the board statistically. Fingers crossed he can maintain this health through the playoffs and beyond.
SGA has also benefited from a strong month, as he has scored in double-digits every game except for one this month, and is also shooting his second highest field goal percentage and highest three-point of any month this season. He is averaging his highest assist total at 4.5 a game, and seems to have really taken to a lot of the individual coaching he gets from Sam Cassell and Doc after a tough February. He is looking like every bit the strong, confident point-guard the Clips need him to be to succeed and he is peaking at the right time after hitting two substantial rookie walls this season.
Of course, I’d be remiss to not quickly talk again about the best bench duo of all time in Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams. Trez has been killing it, of late averaging 20.8 ppg and 7.5 rpg on 59 percent shooting in his last seven. I can’t wait until the entire NBA watching public falls in love with him in the playoffs as the Clips have barely been on national TV this season. Lou keeps doing Lou things and helping the Clips win ball games late. Despite some bad shooting nights (including five games where he went 0 for from three this month) he is still averaging 22.6 ppg and 5 assists like it’s nothing. If he can continue this stat line in the playoffs, the Clips will be hard to beat in a seven-game series.
The Minnesota Timberwolves are officially out of the playoff race in the West. They also are missing Derrick Rose and Jeff Teague, their two best guards. They are without Robert Covington, their best defending wing, and notorious Clipper killer Taj Gibson might not play Tuesday night with a calf strain. Despite all of this — The Timberwolves always give the Clippers a tough out because they are big inside, and Wiggins always seems to eat against them. This game will not be as easy as it seems on paper. and if the Clippers play down to their competition (like they did against the Cavs and Knicks), this game could be a let-down the Clips really don’t need for playoff positioning. A loss here would be a huge missed opportunity to maintain position outside of the eight seed in the West and a potential first round matchup with the Warriors. This game absolutely REEKS of a trap game and the Clips need to stay focused despite being down starter Landry Shamet, who is out with an ankle impingement.
The Wolves are dealing with a tough month as they are 4-7 in March, including a five-game losing streak that was snapped against the Memphis Grizzlies Saturday night. They are rested and at home however, and would love nothing more than to spoil a Western Conference foes chances in the playoffs. They still have a perennial All-NBA talent in Karl Anthony Towns who is averaging 24.7 PPG and a career high 12.5 RPG this season and Andrew Wiggins who, despite having a tough season overall, is still a dangerous talent who can go off at any time. Dario Saric is a solid shooter and rebounder, Josh Okogie is one of the more impressive rookie defenders and will be all over the Clippers guards, Tyus Jones is smooth and capable of a good shooting night and Gorgui Deng is the type of athletic big man that usually smokes the Clips. The Wolves, despite their shortcomings right now, will be a tough out every time.