Scouting Report: Wolves at Clippers
Web Editorial Associate
Wolves (6-7) at Clippers (8-6) — 9:30 PM Staples Center
Where to Watch: Fox Sports North, NBA TV
Where to Listen: 830 WCCO-AM
View Timberwolves Game Notes
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The Timberwolves wrap up their four-game West Coast road trip tonight with a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. While Minnesota just broke its five-game losing streak, L.A. will look to snap a four-game skid of their own. Tipoff is set for 9:30 p.m. on Fox Sports North, NBA TV and 830 WCCO-AM.
Tied for first in the Pacific Division, the Clippers have lost four games in a row, most recently a 105-98 setback against the visiting New Orleans Hornets. L.A.’s woes were at least partially due to star Blake Griffin’s worst shooting night as a pro—making only 1-of-9 shots from the field. He ended up fouling out after 35 minutes of action, only the fourth time Griffin has failed to reach double-digit scoring in his whole career.
While one L.A. struggled, another enjoyed a personal best. Caron Butler sunk a career-high nine 3-pointers, recording 33 points total. Butler’s mark made him the first Clippers player this year to score more than 30 points in a night. Greivis Vasquez scored 25 points for New Orleans.
The Wolves finally broke their five-game slide with a 97-89 victory over Sacramento on Tuesday night; the win was propelled by 23 points and an NBA season-high 24 rebounds from All-Star forward Kevin Love. Sacramento crept up to 91-89 late in the fourth quarter, but a Nikola Pekovic bucket and a spinning, impromptu shot from Love pushed Minnesota’s lead to 95-87 with less than 30 seconds remaining in the contest.
Luke Ridnour (18 points) and Pekovic (16 points, eight rebounds) helped pace the Wolves, as Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Tyreke Evans responded with 20 points each.
Last Time Out: April 12, 2012
The slumping Wolves lost their eighth straight game in a season that turned sour with injuries—yet another setback in a month that has been anything but kind to them over the years.
The Los Angeles Clippers’ 95-82 victory over Minnesota was the Wolves’ 24th straight loss in April, a streak that dates back to 2009. Los Angeles was paced by 19 points and 13 rebounds from Blake Griffin, supplemented by solid efforts from teammates Caron Butler (17 points) and Mo Williams (14 points, five assists).
Minnesota was led by double-doubles from Michael Beasley (14 points, 10 rebounds) and J.J. Barea (10 points). The loss, which was played without star forward Kevin Love (concussion), officially eliminated the Wolves from the playoff picture. Barea sustained a cut on his lip in the first half that required eight stitches, the latest oddball injury for a Minnesota squad that just couldn’t stay healthy. The Wolves did have success against the Clippers a year ago, however. Minnesota won three of four against L.A. in 2011-12.
Key Matchup: Nikola Pekovic and DeAndre Jordan
Some media suggested before the season that Pekovic’s most vulnerable defensive matchup would be against longer, taller and more athletic centers, and the good news for him is that he passed his first test. On Nov. 9 against Roy Hibbert, a 7-foot-2, 280-pounder for Indiana, Pekovic limited him to 10 points and four rebounds. The Wolves went on to win that game, using 13 points from Pekovic himself.
The not-so-good news might be that DeAndre Jordan, a lanky high-flier that stands 6-foot-11, will be Pekovic’s matchup when the Wolves visit Staples Center. Jordan has offensive game when he’s in the right place at the right time, as shown in wins against the Spurs (20 points) and in Portland (21 points), and watch out if he gets a chance at finishing with a dunk.
But Jordan hits cold streaks for games at a time—most recently with three points against the Hornets on just 1-4 shooting. The Clippers—who went on a six-game winning streak before their skid started—need offensive effectiveness and productivity from their gifted center, with Pekovic standing in the way.
|Tonight's Projected Starters|
|PG||Luke Ridnour||Chris Paul|
|SG||Malcolm Lee||Willie Green|
|SF||Andrei Kirilenko||Caron Butler|
|PF||Kevin Love||Blake Griffin|
|C||Nikola Pekovic||DeAndre Jordan|