The Minnesota Timberwolves have now lost their last five games as they've now fallen eight games below .500, with each loss the prospect of playoff basketball in Minnesota becoming less and less likely.
The Wolves got Nikola Pekovic & Alexey Shved back in the lineup for the first time since the Wolves faced the Clippers back on Jan. 17th. Rick Adelman also returned the sidelines for the first time in 11 games! All three were difference-makers in tonight's game, but unfortunately the Wolves fell just short with this six-point loss to LAC.
The TWolves played the Clippers to a draw in the first quarter, thanks in large part to a big first quarter from Minnesota's Pekovic & L.A.'s Griffin. Pek scored 8 of his 17 in the first quarter, while Blake countered with 12 of his 26. Both Kirilenko and Williams added 5 as did L.A.'s Jordan. The Wolves shot 11-for-17 (64.7%), including 2-for-2 from deep. The Clippers went 10-for-18 (55.6%) and the quarter ended with the Wolves up 25-23.
The Wolves played a second unit centered around Alexey Shved & J.J. Barea for the majority of the second quarter. J.J. dumped in 6 and Shved added 5 to the Wolves' 23 first quarter points. The Clippers got 6 apiece from Crawford and Jordan, while both Butler & Griffin added 5 each. The Clips took a 4-point lead heading into halftime. The Wolves shot just 7-for-24 FG (29%) and 1-for-8 3PT (13%) in the second quarter, while getting out-rebounded 11-15 (including allowing the Clippers to 5 offensive rebounds).
Ricky Rubio got things going for the Wolves in the third quarter as he dumped in 7 of his 9 points, with Ridnour adding 5 of his 8. The Clippers countered with 8 of Butler's 19 and 6 of Blake's 26. At one point in the third the Wolves found themselves down by double-digits, but orchestrated a run that saw them tie the game back up. The third quarter ended with the Clippers up 71-76.
Despite a valiant effort and a some big shots from Shved & Barea early in the fourth, the Wolves couldn't buy a basket late and ended up falling 96-90. J.J. Barea had 6 of his 14, while Shved added 7 of his 12 in the final quarter. The Clips were carried by J-Crawford in the final quarter as he went off for 9 of his 17 points.
Some other notes...
The Minnesota Timberwolves got a big boost with their starting center back in the lineup. He finished with yet another double-double and played a team-high 37 minutes in this one (something that bothered me when Porter was coaching the team--he'd play Pek for 25-30 minutes, when clearly we needed him out there). J.J. Barea had a solid game off the bench and hit a number of key shots in the fourth quarter. Alexey Shved also returned after missing five games and turned in a 12-point night off the bench. It clearly wasn't the most efficient night, but Alexey hit some very key shots in the second half that fueled a comeback and inevitably gave the Wolves a chance at the end of this one.
Despite being without their best player, the Clippers got some good games from a number of players tonight. The Clipper frontcourt (Butler, Griffin & Jordan) were the stars in this one. They combined for 61pts, 30reb, 1ast, 4stls, 2blks, 24-37 FG (65%), 2-4 3PT (50%) and 11-18 FT (61%).
MISC. STATS: J.J. Barea recorded his first block of the season, it's also the first block of his Timberwolves career and the 15th overall (his one block also ties a career-high, for the 15th time in his career)......Dante Cunningham tied a season-high with his four offensive rebounds......Ricky Rubio tied season-highs with 4 field goals made and 9 field goals attempted......Greg Stiemsma tied a season-high with his four free throw attempts and set a new season-high in confrontations with two.......Mickael Gelabale set a new season-high with 3 steals, which is also a new career-high.......
KEY STATS: Had one team made more than 60-70% of their free throws, this would've been a completely different game. The Wolves left 8 points at the line, 8 points that obviously could've made a big difference in the outcome of this one. The Wolves started hot (2-for-2) from deep in the first quarter, but progressively got worse as the game wore on. The Wolves played a very good game, but in order to beat a team like the Clippers it'll take more than 44% FG, 26% 3PT and 70% FT.
MISC. STATS: The Timberwolves tied a season-high with 25 fouls tonight.....The Clippers set a new season-high for a Wolves opponent with 36 free throws attempted and also tied the second-best mark (for a MIN opponent) with their 23 made free throws.......The Clippers also set a season-low with 9 three-pointers attempted by a Wolves opponent as well as tied a the second-lowest mark for a MIN opponent of the season with their 3 made threes......
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Friday night when the Lakers come to town. That game will be nationally televised on ESPN and will tip at 8:30pmCT, stay tuned for a preview late tomorrow night, until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!