What a weird game. The NBA is always a game of runs, but tonight, it was taken to the extreme. The Wolves, on the second night of a road-home back-to-back, actually fought quite well. After a Kevin Martin off-night last night, the Wolves were saddled with an (extreme) Kevin Love off-night, while Martin played quite well in keeping his team close down the stretch.
The Clippers scored the first 12 points of the game, and it looked like the second night of a back-to-back route was on. But the Wolves somehow battled back to tie the tilt at 24-24 by the end of the first frame. It wasn’t really pretty, but handful of shots finally started to fall for the home team after a rough showing last night in Washington D.C.
Love put up 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal, but shot just 2 for 7 from the field. Ricky Rubio was the best player on the floor for the Wolves in the first quarter, which was good to see after a rough, 19-minute night last night against the Wizards.
Rick Adelman chose to open the second quarter with five reserves on the floor in J.J. Barea, Alexey Shved, Robbie Hummel, Derrick Williams, and Dante Cunningham. A gutsy call, and the Wolves paid dearly in short order, surrendering an 11-0 run to open the frame. In an interesting move, Adelman left all five players on the court until under the five minute mark in the quarter, which meant that they would match-up with some of the Clippers starters.
And, shockingly, they went on a 12-0 run of their own. It was weird, and it wasn’t really all that beautiful, but they did it. In truth, they played surprisingly solid defense, and Shved and Williams showed up on both ends of the court. The starters eased their way back into the game, and the Wolves expanded the run to 22-4, and took an improbable 46-39 lead.
Of course, they promptly gave up a 7-0 run to finish the half, and went into the break with a strange-feeling 46-46 score. On the one hand, the game could have easily been over at this point. On the other hand, the starters kicked away a nice lead rather quickly in the closing moments of the half.
The third quarter accentuated how poorly Kevin Love’s night was going/went, and the Clippers just kept going back to Blake Griffin, who after a very quiet first half put on somewhat of a clinic early in the second half. The Clippers built an eight-point lead multiple times and once pushed it to ten, but a quick push by the Wolves got the deficit back to four points at 71-67. No doubt they felt grateful to be that close.
True to the form of this game, however, the Clippers opened the fourth quarter on a 10-7 run, followed by an 8-0 Minnesota run fueled by Nikola Pekovic. After a few entertaining back-and-forth possessions, the Clippers’ pick-and-roll game began working like a well-oiled machine. The Wolves’ couldn’t slow it down, and it was all they could do to try and keep pace.
The Wolves did pull within three points a couple of times late in the game, including twice in the final thirty seconds, but the Clippers knocked down shots and free throws when they needed to and iced the game with a pair of J.J. Redick free throws with 9.6 seconds left.
– The Chris Paul Clinic was in full effect in the fourth quarter. It started with the Wolves’ inability to guard Paul off the high screen-and-roll, and Paul knocked down a pair of three-pointers (he had been 2 of his last 16 from long range prior to the fourth quarter tonight). As Rubio trailed Paul around the screens, CP3 knocked down his patented elbow jumper. It was weird; he barely even looked to pass. Which isn’t at all what you would expect out of the best point guard in the game. But it worked.
And it wasn’t so much that Rubio was having his lunch handed to him. Well, okay, he was, but Paul is just that good. And the last couple of makes that Paul had, Rubio did a fine job of contesting. Paul was just too much. And the Kevin Garnett-level trash-talking was just salt in the wound for Rubio and his teammates.
– Love had an awful night, and appeared to hurt his right elbow in the fourth quarter. Of course, most of his shooting issues were prior to the possible injury, and he finished the night with just 10 points, 12 rebounds, 8 assists, 1 steal, and 5 turnovers. He shot just 6 of 10 from the free throw line, and also appeared to tweak his right knee in the closing minutes. His health will obviously be something to keep an eye on prior to Friday night’s game.
– Tonight felt much worse than it was. It’s hard to complain about a 4-point loss to a team of the Clippers’ caliber, on the second night of a road-home back-to-back. Now, if they lose to the nose-diving Brooklyn Nets at home on Friday night, well, that will be another story.
– As mentioned, the banged-up Kevin Garnett and his Nets come to Target Center on Friday night at 7 p.m.