Monday night at Target Center was one of three times out of the four Wolves-Clippers contests during the 2013-14 season that the NBA scheduled the Wolves on the second night of a back-to-back while Los Angeles had spent the previous night resting.
Not that the now 53-22 Clippers needed the advantage, of course. After a closely contested first half that saw Los Angeles take a slight 54-51 lead into the second half, all hell broke loose for the Timberwolves in the third quarter. After a 6-0 lead that gave Minnesota a 57-54 lead, the Clippers went on a tear.
Darren Collison (being guarded by Kevin Martin) went off, and the Clippers showed why they’re a 53-win team at this juncture in the season. The Wolves offense stalled, and a three-point Wolves’ lead became a 20+ point deficit.
Nikola Pekovic only played seven first quarter minutes, during which time he missed all three field goal attempts. Shortly thereafter, word came down that Pekovic would not return to the game due to a sore right ankle. And with that, the Wolves had no chance of slowing down DeAndre Jordan on the boards or in the paint, especially with Gorgui Dieng picking up two early fouls and the Wolves rolling with a Kevin Love-Dante Cunningham front court.
As impressive as the Wolves were in hanging with the Clippers for the first 26 minutes of the game, things devolved very quickly in the second half. The visitors flexed their muscles while the home team put their tail between their legs and essentially stopped competing. The usually roll-with-it coach Rick Adelman even used three quick timeouts in the third quarter to attempt to stop the uncontrollable bleeding.
The fourth quarter promised to be a charade, but the Wolves second unit whittled the lead from 24 points all the way down to 8 a couple of times late in the game. Chris Paul and Co. were forced to play heavy fourth quarter minutes, while the only six players to see the court for Minnesota were J.J. Barea, Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, Robbie Hummel, Dante Cunningham, and Dieng.
The Wolves went on an 11-0 run over the middle portion of the final frame, but it wasn’t enough as Paul asserted himself down the stretch. Despite a frustrating performance an effort by the Wolves’ starters, it was an encouraging display of heart and the absence of quit by the bench unit on what is ultimately a lottery team.
Kevin Martin shot just 4 of 14 from the field tonight, while Ricky Rubio shot 1 of 6 and Kevin Love put up 21 shots and only made 8 of them. Dieng, Muhammad, Budinger, Cunningham and Hummel all played well off the bench, combining to shoot 22 of 36 (61%) from the floor.
Next up for the Wolves is a home game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The game tips-off at 7:00 CT.