The Clippers’ longest win streak of the league came to an end Friday. With any luck, they’re back on track for another.
The only blip on L.A.’s complete demolition of the Minnesota Timberwolves was that it wasn’t a wire-to-wire win. Other than that, the Clippers gave the fans returning to Staples Center everything they could have hoped for in a 124-105 win.
The Clippers firmly exerted control of the game with their two stars back in the starting lineup. Kawhi Leonard was mildly sloppy with the ball, to be expected after more than a week off, but his jumper was pure, and so was Paul George’s, aided in part by Minnesota’s inability to play anything resembling defense.
L.A. built an early 10-point advantage for the bench unit, but the Patrick Patterson-led reserves gave away seven points before the end of the first quarter. Once Ivica Zubac came back to start the second quarter, the lead stabilized — and some. The Wolves shot 40 percent from the field in the period while corralling only seven rebounds. Meanwhile, the Clippers had 12 assists on their 14 field-goal attempts and made 10 3-pointers to secure the rout.
No one on Minnesota could get going, least of all Karl-Anthony Towns who had three fouls in the opening half and shot 3-of-10 from the field. He and D’Angelo Russell both had double-digit points, but offense wasn’t really the problem.
Paul George had 16 points at the half and was joined by Marcus Morris Sr., Zubac, and Reggie Jackson in double figures. Jackson even got raucous (at least for a limited capacity crowd) “Reggie” chant when he was at the free-throw line.
“Definitely heard it. Definitely heard it,” Jackson said of the chants. “Just having them here, bringing that atmosphere. Being able to look in the stands and interact with the fans was joyous today, especially with the way we competed and the way we were able to get the win today, and be up pretty handily. Their energy’s amazing, making the game just so much more fun, being able to interact with the fans, being able to just get that vibe, so I’m very appreciative to have some Reggie Jackson chants, but just to have the Clippers cheering me on and my teammates cheering me on just makes the game that much better.”
The third quarter was more of the same as the Clippers rained threes and played an even better defensive quarter, limiting the Wolves to five field goals compared to six turnovers. By the end of the period, all five starters had at least 10 points, half of the team’s 38 field goals were threes, and 25 of them were assisted. It was a complete offensive performance, one that allowed the first group to sit out the entire quarter.
That opened the door for Malik Fitts, playing in the final game of his 10-day contract, to score the first bucket of his NBA career. In pure Clippers fashion, it was an assisted 3-pointer, courtesy of Luke Kennard.
It’s a promising beginning to Fitts’ NBA hopes, and a continuation of the excellent basketball the Clippers have been playing. The playoffs can’t come soon enough.