The Clippers started off slow for the second straight game at Staples Center, falling behind 16-7 and letting the visiting Timberwolves get whatever they wanted on the offensive end. A quick timeout, featuring what looked to be a lecture from associate head coach Dan Craig, led to the Clippers tightening their defense and swiftly turning the game around en route to 124-101 win.
The second unit was key to the team’s comeback. Lou Williams was absolutely sizzling, as he scored 15 points in the first half (more than Minnesota’s entire bench) on 5-of-6 shooting while earning five trips to the foul line. He also chipped in four assists that led to 11 additional points. His kickout passes to Luke Kennard were particularly exciting because they got Kennard aggressive on offense for the first time in his short Clipper career.
Williams’ offensive spark was matched by Ivica Zubac on the defensive end. Zubac swallowed up multiple shots from Wolves driving into the paint, and even kept pace with guards when he was switched onto the perimeter. Zubac also exceeded his rebounding total from the past two games in the first half alone.
The Clippers as a whole had fantastic energy on both ends of the floor, and once the lid came off the rim, the team was scorching from 3-point range. They made 14-of-23 during the first three quarters, essentially the competitive portion of the game. The scoring was also distributed up and down the roster. Paul George finished with 18 to lead all scorers, and Serge Ibaka, Kennard, Williams, Zubac, Reggie Jackson, and Patrick Beverley each scored double figures as well.
This was an extremely winnable game for the Clippers against a Wolves team missing its best player, but the Clippers didn’t take it lightly. They had a small blip at the start of the game before completely taking control the rest of the way, ensuring that no one had to play more than 25 minutes on the front end of the back-to-back. Even without Kawhi Leonard, this was about as perfect of a result as the Clippers could hope for.