The Minnesota Timberwolves hosted the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday hoping to end a 4 game losing streak. The Clippers entered The Target Center on the first leg of their Grammy road trip, having lost their last 3 on the road. The Wolves were going into their longest home stand of the season, 6 games. Better yet, the Wolves had a lot of healthy bodies back in action. More important than healthy players, the Wolves had their leader back roaming the sidelines. Rick Adelman retuned to the bench after taking care of his wife.
Nikola Pekovic was back in the starting line-up for the first time in 6 games, joining Pek was Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio. While the Wolves had a 12 man bench for the first time since Dec 26th, the Clippers were without Chris Paul and Chauncey Billups. Without Paul, the Clippers started DeAndre Jordan, Blake Griffin, Caron Butler, Willie Green and Eric Bledsoe.
After a few days of much needed rest for the Wolves and some healthy bodies back, the Wolves had a sense of urgency to their game that hasn’t been seen for weeks. Pek’s presence in the game was felt instantly, as he scored the first basket of the game for the Wolves. On the defensive end of the court, the Wolves took a similar approach to the last meeting against the Clippers, forcing Griffin and Jordan to shoot jump shots. The Wolves not only started the game by getting the ball inside, they were trying to get the ball inside at every chance. All of the good looks inside got the Wolves off to a 16-11 lead with 5:54 left in the opening quarter. The Wolves had 2 turnovers in their next 3 possession’s and the Clippers capitalized with 3 straight baskets giving them their first lead of the game, 19-18 with 3:02 left in the 1st quarter. The Wolves went to the bench with 2:26, and the move paid off, as the Wolves went on a 9-0 run and took the lead back and ended the quarter with a 2 point, 25-23 lead.
To start the 2nd quarter, both teams’ benches were on display, the Wolves had Greg Stiemsma, Dante Cunningham, Mickeael Gelabale, Alexey Shved and JJ Barea. The Clippers, which could arguably be the best in the NBA, had a combination of Ronny Turiaf, Lamar Odom, Matt Barnes, Grant Hill and Jamal Crawford. The Wolves bench had a huge test in trying to both compete with, and contain the Clippers bench, which dominated the Wolves in the last meeting. The Wolves again to start the 1st half had great ball movement, and just as it has all season, provided great looks and allowed the bench to open up a 10 point 32-25 lead with 10:14 remaining in the 1st half. The Wolves had 10 assists on 14 field goals with 8:39 remaining in the half. With 8:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter, and the Wolves on the offensive end of the floor, were running through their motion, Greg Stiemsma set a screen on Matt Barnes who went after the Steamer. Barnes tried to shove his way through the screen, and when he was unable to move Stiemsma, he delivered a fore arm to Stiemsma’s neck. Barnes’s actions were so severe it drew a flagrant 2 and an ejection. Typically an ejection would calm things down, and send a message from the officials, this was not the case. With 7:25 remaining Stiemsma went up for a rebound, a little out of control, and shoved Grant Hill for a flagrant 1. Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf took to the aid of their teammate and their actions drew technical fouls when they pushed Stiemsma in retaliation. After the dust had cleared and all of the free throws were shot, the Wolves held a 10 point 38-28 lead. As both teams started to integrate their starters back onto the floor to close out the half, the Clippers went on a 12-2 run to tie the game with 1:27 left in the 2nd quarter. The Clippers managed to continue their run and close out the half on an 18 to 4 run take a 52-48 halftime lead.
The Wolves once again started out the game moving the ball, getting good looks, which allowed them to convert. After they had such great ball movement to start the game, they only had 1 assist over the last 8:39 of the 2nd quarter. Something else to take note of, the Wolves were very effectively working the ball inside and converting on those looks, but yet in the second quarter the Wolves went 1-8 from beyond the arc after they had only taken 2 3’s in the 1st quarter.
Both teams started the 2nd half with the same starting 5, and the Clippers picked up right where they left off, going on a 4-0 run and taking a 56-48 lead with 10:14 remaining. Derrick Williams struggled with fouls going against Blake Griffin, DWill picked up his 5th personal foul with 10:14 remaining in the 3rd quarter. Things for the Wolves started rough in the 2nd half, as they committed 3 turnovers in the first 3:05 and watched the Clippers converted on those turnovers to take an 8 point, 59-51 lead. The Clippers would manage to increase the lead up to 11 in the 3rd. The Wolves wouldn’t go quietly, as they rattled off a 9-0 run of their own, and narrow the Clippers lead to 2, with 5:18 remaining. Both teams countered each other over the rest of the 3rd quarter and the Wolves found themselves down by 5 entering the 4th and final quarter.
The 4th quarter continued to be tight, the largest lead was 6 points for the Clippers (80-74) with 9:40 remaining. The Wolves bench again was the big difference, as they hit big shots and clawed their way back to a tie game at 82 with 5:46 left to play. The Wolves defense started to tighten up and force the Clippers into tough shots and turnovers. The Wolves offense was able to pick up convert on the offensive end and take an 84-82 lead with 3:54 and take their first lead since the 2nd quarter. Jordan Crawford hit a big jumper for the Clippers with 3:17 remaining to give the Clippers back the lead. The lead was short lived as the Wolves worked the ball inside for a lay-up by Pek to retake the lead. Eric Bledsoe on the next possession would hit a big 3 point shot to give the Clippers back a 2 point 90-88 lead with 2:45 remaining. Jordan Crawford added a free throw with 2:20 to make it 91-88. The Wolves were only able to convert on 1 of their next trips down the floor and couldn’t close the gap as the Clippers escaped with a 96-90 victory to improve to 34-13 on the season.
Derrick Williams was -11 on the night, and struggled against Griffin on the night.
Even with Pek back in the lineup, the Wolves were out rebounded 45-38.
All 5 Wolves starters had a -, +/-.
Every bench player for the Wolves had a +, +/- on the night.
Chris Johnson did not play. Not sure if that is because Pek was back or if it was Adelman was back on the sidelines.
It was nice to have Rick back, the rotations seemed tighter and were timelier.
The Wolves now 17-25, will try and snap a 5 game losing streak against the Lakers on Friday at The Target Center with an 8:30 tip on ESPN.