Before Saturday night’s contest against Minnesota, Ty Lue was asked if he likes playing the same team multiple times in a short stretch. Lue said no, because the frequency of meetings gives the teams a chance to learn each other’s tendencies.
Well, after three games against each other in 11 days, the Timberwolves may have figured out what the Clippers were up to, but they were still no closer to figuring out how to stop the Clippers. LA used a blistering 38-17 second quarter to pull away from Minnesota, and it was never close afterwards, as the Clippers won their seventh in a row going away, 129-102.
The game was close during the opening minutes, but the Clippers second unit of Eric Bledsoe, Luke Kennard, Terance Mann, Justise Winslow, and Isaiah Hartenstein created convincing separation. Bledsoe continued his resurgence, as his ability to make a few shots has amplified his overall floor game. Bledsoe was pushing the pace, getting right into the teeth of the defense to score for himself or spray out for threes. It was easy, quick basketball that compromised the Wolves defense, and Bledsoe ended the game with 14 points and a team-high nine assists.
Mann and Kennard were equally active in transition as well, often finding one another for scores on the break. They got the crowd roaring early as Kennard led the break and dished it off to Mann, who drove and got it back to Kennard in the corner for a triple that needed a couple of extra bounces on the rim.
While the Clippers made it rain from deep, their centers took care of business inside. Ivica Zubac attacked the basket early and often, getting so aggressive he even goaltended his own dunk attempt on one possession. Zubac finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds. Hartenstein added 12 points and 12 rebounds of his own, including some serious activity on the offensive glass that led to second chances at threes for the Clippers.
The Clippers banked some important rest for Paul George and Nicolas Batum on the front end of a back-to-back. George only played 27 minutes, and was a scoring machine throughout despite not having to do much work on ball, perhaps a conscious decision to ease his workload. Batum only played 19 minutes and still had time for some memorable defensive moments, including a steal and score on the opening possession.
It was a professional, comfortable win that was never in doubt.