CLIPPERS (36-23) 95, WOLVES (25-35) 82
Ha ha. Blake Griffin missed a wide-open dunk. The Timberwolves may have been overmatched by the Clippers Thursday night, but at least they’ve never embarrassed themselves like Blake did on that play. Oh wait, never mind.
Yeah, that missed dunk was certainly the highlight of a game that turned into an easy 13-point Clippers win, but this game was actually pretty competitive and entertaining in the first half. It feels like I’m stepping into a time machine and going back to a time when all Timberwolves fans had to celebrate were moral victories (basically any time within the past six seasons), but that’s where we are right now with this decimated squad.
Minnesota had taken the first three games of a four-game season series against the Clippers, and I’m sure Chris Paul and Blake Griffin weren’t too happy about that. You would think they would have come out and stomped the Love-less, Ridnour-less, Rubio-less Wolves right from the opening tip to demonstrate their dominance over an inferior opponent. That, however, wasn’t the case.
The Wolves were feisty little devils in the first half, namely J.J. Barea, Michael Beasley, Nikola Pekovic and Anthony Randolph. I’ll get right into the points and touch on how they played.
- J.J. Barea was, as Jim Petersen called him, “Good J.J.” in the first half. He was getting wherever he wanted against the Clippers guards to create baskets for himself or for others. He finished the half with 10 points, 10 assists and two turnovers. Late in the second quarter he got hit in the face by Chris Paul and had to get eight stitches on his lip (which Nikola Pekovic threatened to tear out at halftime). J.J. came back and played in the second half, but he just wasn’t the same. He had just one more assist and five more turnovers while being held scoreless. He did have this sweet highlight in the first half, though, so thanks for that, J.J.
- Like Barea, Beasley had a strong first half and fizzled out after that. He made some tough shots driving through the lane, hitting buckets while drawing contact. He was also working hard on the boards, not just getting lucky with bounces going to him, but actually fighting for rebounds. It was like he wanted to show Rick Adelman he actually gave a damn after Adelman only played him 10 minutes against Denver. Beas had 11 points on 5 of 10 shooting in the first half with six boards. He made 1 of 5 shots in the second half, but did finish with 14 points and 10 boards for the game.
- Nikola Pekovic finished with 17 points and six boards. Just your average Pek game. Gotta say, though, it’s fun seeing him muscle around Blake and DeAndre Jordan.
- Anthony Randolph and Derrick Williams each had a block on Blake Griffin and the Wolves were doing a pretty good job of defending Blake in that first half. Blake only had four points on 2 of 7 shooting with three minutes left in the half and was struggling to get anything going. The rest of the game, yeah, he got something going, finishing with 19 points, 13 boards and five assists.
- Randolph had his second straight solid game in a row. He had a turnaround jumper over Chris Paul at the end of the shot clock in the final minute of the first quarter, which gave Minnesota a 26-21 lead. He was one of the few guys to pick up his game in the second half, scoring 10 of his 16 points after halftime. He also had nine boards.
- Derrick Williams continued his up-and-down season on Thursday, following up a 27-point performance against Denver with just four points on 1 of 7 shooting against the Clippers. He continues to struggle scoring while taking the ball to the basket, meaning he’s in trouble if he doesn’t find his rhythm with his jump shot, which he clearly did find on Thursday.
- Since when did they find a cure for death? Caron Butler had scored a combined two points in three games against Minnesota this season (he missed one of those games with an injury) on 1-for-16 shooting. He scored 17 points Thursday against Minnesota, knocking down five threes with a very confident stroke. I checked out his game log and he had 28 points in a loss against the Lakers earlier this month. Maybe he’s finding his game, which would be huge for the Clippers because they desperately need some scoring from their wings if they want to be a threat in the playoffs. I also noticed in his game log that he’s close to Wes Johnson-level bad when it comes to getting to the foul line. He’s gone to the line 10 times in the last 18 games, with six of those attempts coming in his big game against the Lakers. Not good for a guy who plays 30 minutes per game.