The Clippers grinded, defended, and worked their way into the paint tonight, earning a 104-84 point victory with a 40-point turnaround against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Most notably, with MVP-caliber player and leader Paul George inefficient from the field, the other Clippers proved they’re ready to step up, if and when needed.
The Clippers started cold, going 0-of-6 from three and 9-of-21 overall. The Wolves, passing better and shooting 6-of-15 and 13-of-22, in turn, rode out to a quick 10-point lead after the first quarter. Truly, for much of the first half, the rim was playing its own game with the Clippers: hard to get. More than a couple of shots teased the Clippers, dipping almost fully in before rattling out.
In a gritty game like this, with both teams trading runs and neither team shooting particularly well, much of the game was dictated by effort. The better rebounding team, the team that “wanted it more” on defense, at any point in the game, was likely also the team that was going on a run. It was an effort like this that allowed the Clippers, who were down 46-29 with four minutes into the third, to bring the game as close as 54-47 with 33 seconds to go in the first half.
Halfway through the third quarter, the Clippers took their second lead of the game (the first came when they were up 3-0, 49 seconds into the game).
Throughout the game, the Clippers were better at staying disciplined on defense. They had a 16-33 advantage in fouling, which led to 32 free throws for the Clippers, compared to just seven for the Timberwolves. The defensive effort was most apparent after halftime, as the Clippers held the Wolves, who shot almost 60 percent in the first quarter, to just 25 percent m from the field. The direct result? A Minnesota squad who only scored 15 and 12 points in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. And a productive defense leads to a reinvigorated offense, as we’re starting to see with these Clippers.
For the Timberwolves, Anthony Edwards contributed 17 points while Karl-Anthony Towns led the Wolves in scoring with 20 points. He tied the only other double digit scorer on the Wolves, Malik Beasley (who scored 18 points) with the worst +/- in the game, with a -28.
In a game where George’s shot was not entirely there, he did what all great players do and still found a way to be impactful en route to 21 points (including shooting 13-of-14 from the free throw line), 11 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. He was joined by impressive outings from the surrounding cast, including 12, 14, and 11 point outings by Nic Batum, Ivica Zubac, and Terance Mann, respectively, as well as a resolute 20 point game from Reggie Jackson.
With all eyes on the Clippers role players, they came to play today. This is the key to sustained success for the Clippers this season. George will make his mark, but the role players are key. Whether they have hot hands in a high-scoring, efficient game like the last outing, or they’re locked in on defense in a gritty, grueling game like this one, the performance of the non-Paul George Clippers will be the key to Clippers success this season.