The Minnesota Timberwolves come home from a four-game road trip with their tails between their legs, riding a four-game losing streak.
The Wolves have been much better at home this season and hopefully a return home can 'stop the bleeding' and get this team a win. The Wolves have lost four-straight on the road, but have won seven of their last nine games at home.
Unfortunately the Wolves are returning home to face the Los Angeles Clippers--one of the NBA's best teams.
The Minnesota Timberwolves come into tonight's game 16-19 this season, 10-5 at home, 9-12 vs the Western Conference, losers of four-straight, 3-7 in their last ten games and currently ranked 10th out West. The Los Angeles Clippers are 30-9 this season, 12-5 on the road, 21-5 vs. the Western Conference, winners of their last two outings, 7-3 in their last ten games and are currently ranked 2nd in the Western Conference.
The Clippers' success this season is thanks in large part to the stellar play of Chris Paul & Blake Griffin. Even with Paul out the last two games, the Clips haven't lost a beat. That's no surprise considering their backup point guard is one of the best in the League: Eric Bledsoe--who no doubt have a new team and a starting job next season. Bledsoe has started the last two games in Paul's absence and has totaled 33 points on 11-of-21 field goal.
The Minnesota Timberwolves struggled mightily during that four game road trip, however they've certainly put together a stretch of very 'rough' outings. Over the last nine games the Wolves are allowing 104.9ppg and during the month of January are allowing an NBA-worst 50.4% field-goal percentage.
The Wolves have been adamant that they'll fight through injuries and won't let that affect their play. It's a nice thought, but with so many players out, it's near impossible.
The Wolves are without Kevin Love (hand) for 8-10 weeks, Chase Budinger (knee) for 2 months, Malcolm Lee (knee/hip) for the season and Brandon Roy (knees) for...who knows how long/if he'll ever return. Those four have been out for a bit now, so that's really no surprise. Unfortunately during practice yesterday three players were out with 'illnesses': Andrei Kirilenko, Alexey Shved and Lazar Hayward. Terry Porter is adamant that they'll be able to play tonight...but I have my doubts (how can you not considering the season the Wolves have had thus far). Those are two starters and if all seven of these guys missed tonight's game, the Wolves would have just eight healthy guys.
For the first time in four games the Wolves are facing an opponent that has some injuries of their own (the Thunder, Hornets, Spurs and Mavericks all had a fully healthy roster). Chauncey Billups (foot) and Trey Thompkins (knee) are both 'out indefinitely' and won't be available for tonight's game. Chris Paul (knee) who we talked about before, is listed as day-to-day. From everything I've heard, it's sounding as though he'll miss tonight's game.
Let's take a look at tonight's possible starting lineups...
If Alexey & Andrei aren't able to play, my guess is the starting lineup would likely be: Ricky Rubio (3.8P, 4.6A, 1.4S), Luke Ridnour, Derrick Williams (9P, 4.3R, 0.5B), Dante Cunningham and Nikola Pekovic. That would leave a second unit of: J.J. Barea, Lou Amundson and Greg Stiemsma. If Alexey & Andrei are able to play, we could still see a change to the starting lineup. After yesterday's practice Porter admitted that the coaching staff were debating changing the starting lineup--particularly switching Cunningham with Williams at power forward. They're hoping Williams can provide some instant offense in the starting lineup and they can go back to having Dante's energy and hustle off the bench.
For Clippers, obviously if Chris Paul (16.8P, 3.5R, 9.7A, 2.6S) is able to play, he'll be in the starting lineup.
That's all for now, tipoff is set for 7pmCT thanks for reading HOWL, enjoy the game and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!