The Timberwolves wrapped up their west coast road trip against the Clippers did so without Andrei Kirilenko, who was out due to back spasms. In AK’s absence, Rick Adelman had to use his 6th different starting lineup this year. Even without AK the Wolves and Clippers went back and forth all night, it was a game that saw 15 lead changes and 11 ties. While it was a hard fought game the Wolves came out a little short falling 101-95.
The Wolves starting lineup saw Pek, Love, Josh Howard, Lee and Ridnour. For the Clips they got Chauncey Billups back into their starting lineup to compliment Jordan, Griffin, Butler and Paul. This game was once again going to be a huge test for the Wolves back court. It was a great start for the Wolves seeing all 5 players score in less than 5 minutes into the game. Better yet, the Wolves had 4 assists on 6 baskets to start the game. . The Wolves established great ball movement and hustle to start and it allowed them to open up a lead early on in the 1st. While the Wolves bench has shown to be solid they faced their toughest bench they’ll see all season, and in the first quarter the Wolves bench closed out the 1st quarter with a 6-0 run over the Clippers bench to take a 28-23 lead.
Energy and effort, all of the hustle allowed the Wolves bench to open up the lead to 9 early in the 2nd quarter. The Clippers bench did prove too much for the Wolves to handle as they went on an 11-0 run, allowing the Clippers to take a 2 point lead in the 2nd. Most of the run came on fast break points (15-5 advantage for the Clippers). Rick Adleman responded at 6:26 by getting the Wolves starting big men back in the game. The timely substitution by Adelman saw the Wolves keep the game close throughout the remainder of the 2nd quarter and close out the half only trailing by 2, 57-55.
It was truly 2nd chance points that allowed the Wolves to stay in the game with 10 first half offensive rebounds. The battle of the back courts had the Wolves with 25 points and the Clippers with 26 points. The Clips were able to outshoot the Wolves 55% to 48.8% from the field. Biggest difference was the Clippers ability to push the ball and get out in transition. If the Wolves were to win, they would need to slow down the Clippers in the 2nd half.
The Wolves definitely slowed down the Clippers in the 3rd quarter, the entire game actually slowed down as there was only 17 total points scored by both teams in 6:10 of play. It was either the pace of the game or the Wolves big men that started to frustrate the Clippers, as the Clips saw 2 technical fouls called in in a span of 45 seconds in the 3rd. With Jordan and Griffin in foul trouble and on the bench the Wolves went on an 11-0 run and took the lead back with almost 5 minutes to play in the 3rd quarter. The key to the 3rd was not only the Wolves slowing the pace, it was the defense stepping up and the Wolves ability to get the ball into the paint and draw fouls. The Wolves got to the line a lot, 16 times in the 3rd quarter, going 12-16. The Wolves set the pace in the 3rd quarter and got to the line which allowed them to outscore the Clippers and take a 77-76 lead after 3 quarters of play.
Starting the 4th quarter both teams had their benches on the floor. Both benches were not very effective, as they continued the low scoring ways of the 2nd half, combining for 13 points in 6 minutes of play. The Wolves hung onto a 1 point lead with 5:30 left. The Wolves saw the small lead disappear on a midrange jumper from Chris Paul with 4:34 to play. On the following drive the Wolves started to look like they could be unraveling as they had a shot clock violation and turned the ball over with 4:07 left. Rick Adelman called a time out to settle down the troops. It didn’t work as the Wolves couldn’t capitalize on the next 2 trips down the court and saw the Clippers take a 5 point lead with 2:38 to play. After a huge 3 point play by Pek settled things down and brought it back to a 2 point game, 88-90 with 2 minutes to play; both teams traded missed baskets over the next minute of play, and then the Clippers forced the Wolves into a turnover with 1:02 left. The Clippers capitalized on a, and 1 by DeAndre Jordan to give the Clippers a 5 point lead with 59 left. Both teams traded a pair of made free throws over the next 30 seconds and still had the Clippers holding onto a 5 point lead, 95-90. Alexey Shved knocked down a huge 3 point basket with 23 seconds left and narrowed the Clippers lead to 2 points. The Wolves were unable to get back on defense and Deandre Jordan converted on a breakaway dunk to put the lead back to 4. The Wolves were not able to convert on the next possession, and had to play the foul game, losing a heart breaker 101-95 ending their 4 game road trip with a 1-3 record and bringing the Wolves to 6-7 on the season.
The Wolves got great news on Monday as Ricky Rubio was cleared for full contact practices. There has been no time table given for his return to the starting lineup, but mid-December may be very reasonable.
Nikola Pekovic looked a little tired on the night finishing 5-13 for 11 points and 11 rebounds, he did log almost 33 minutes on the night after 36 minutes against the Kings.
The Wolves committed 18 turnovers which resulted in 20 points for the Clippers. With the Wolves only shooting 37.8% (31-82) for the night was too much for them to overcome.
The Wolves shooting woes also continued from 3 point land as they went 6-22 (37.8%) for the night.
This was also the final game of Rob Incmikoski for the FSN North.
The Wolves will get a much needed day off before they take on the Milwaukee Bucks Friday night at home with a 7 pm tip.