The Resurrection of Winning Basketball: Wolves @ Clippers Report Card

As longtime Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler would say, "oh me oh my!"

Here are actual statistics from tonight's game:

  • The Wolves' starters scored 37 points on 40 shots in the entire game;
  • Griffin, CP3, and DeAndre Jordan shot a combined 28-for-45 for 71 points;
  • Kevin Love failed to record a double-double and scored only 10 points;
  • Love and Ricky Rubio combined to shoot 5-for-21 from the field;

and yet...

Join me after the jump to explore one of the most wild Timberwolves games in recent memory...

In the last meeting between these budding rivals, the Clippers could not miss from downtown. Despite scoring a season-low 24 points in the paint during that contest, the Clippers had a vice grip on the victory until late threes by Rubio and Love wrested the W from their grasp and left the Staples faithful stunned. Tonight, the Clippers scored 22 points int he paint -- in the first quarter alone. Lob City came out aggressively, pounding the paint with impunity and racking up fouls on the Wolves' bigs. Blake Griffin owned the paint like a man possessed. He spun, twirled, and bullied his way to the rim and the free throw line, where he converted with unusual efficiency.

Yet the Wolves refused to back down and trailed by only 3 at halftime. After the teams fought the third quarter to a stalemate, the scoreboard read Clippers 76, Wolves 73. And then the fourth quarter happened. The Wolves unleashed an offensive onslaught probably unlike anything in their history. 11-for-12 FGs in the fourth (EDIT: the Wolves actually finished 11-for-14 FGs after missing two late, meaningless shots). 36 points (versus 21 for the Clips), all by bench players. A three point deficit into a 12 point win. Who deserves the credit? Let's check out the grades, from descending order of awesomeness:

Derrick Williams (career-high 27 points on 9-for-10 shooting, 4-for-4 threes, 5-for-5 from the line, 5 rebounds, 1 block, and only 1 turnover in 28 minutes): Just like Michael Scott didn't realize there was a win-win-win, I didn't realize there was an A++, until tonight. Early in his burn Williams attacked the basket with finesse, finishing beautifully with both his left and right hands. Shades of the 4th quarter vs. Utah sprung to mind, as did the endless possibilities of DWill turning into a legit 3. And that was BEFORE the fourth quarter, when he hoisted the Wolves on his shoulders and singlehandedly took over the game. The crossover move leading to a 21 foot jumpshot and the foul? 4-for-4 on three pointers, including two difficult looks? Aggressively lowering his head and drawing the foul on his way to the basket? 27 points on 10 shots?? Um, YES PLEASE. I was literally out of my seat cheering when the fourth three splashed through the net. Williams was unconscious in a good way, and we can only hope he's rediscovered his long lost confidence. Grade: A++

Michael Beasley (27 points on 11-for-15 shooting, 3-for-3 from deep, 2-for-4 FTs, 5 rebounds, and no turnovers in 30 minutes): Beasley's first shot--a converted layup at the rim--resulted from a graceful and skilled drive down the lane. Maybe we'll be treated to Jeckyll Beasley tonight, I thought. His second shot? A contested 16 foot jump shot. Was Hyde Beasley already rearing his ugly head? Apparently yes, as he watched Bobby Simmons stroll in for an easy offensive rebound leading to two FT attempts for Reggie Evans. Later, Hyde Beasley pretended to be Kobe Bryant by firing a turnaround fadeaway from 15 feet which missed badly, and finished his series of yucks with two missed FTs. But then ...could it be? Yes! Jeckyll Beasley returns! Beasley suddenly decided it was easier to score from 1 foot away than 16. Then, he mastered the not-so-difficult-to-grasp principle that shooting threes is more effective than long twos by draining a triple. And that was only the first half.

Then came the second half, and the fourth quarter specifically, when Beasley decided to end the silly Jeckyll/Hyde game and turned into Michael Jordan instead. As on fire as DWill was, Beasley matched him in the fourth by hitting shots from all over the court. When he's on, he's a treat to watch. Despite a few lapses on defensive rebounds, Beasley was beastly. Grade: A

Martell Webster (11 points on 5-for-7 FGs, 1-for-2 threes, 0-for-2 from the line, 1 rebound, zero turnovers and +22 in 19 minutes): Martell gets the nod above Pek because he was on the floor during the Wolves' dominant fourth quarter and showed flashes of brilliant athleticism and much-needed midrange / deep shooting. He hit his first midrange shot and finished a nice give-and-go from Love with the left hand. He also hit a 60 foot shot at the end of the first quarter that didn't count. Finally, he converted a tough layup in the fourth quarter that gave the wolves an 80-78 lead, their first lead since early in the first quarter. Grade: A-

Nikola Pekovic (12 points on 4-for-7 shooting, 4-for-4 FTs, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, zero turnovers (nice) in 22 minutes): Within the game's first minutes, Pek backed down DeAndre Jordan for an easy layup; he out-muscled the entire Clippers frontline for an offensive rebound and put-back; he got called for a ridiculous foul by committing the heinous crime of standing still with his hands in the air; and he somehow managed to look both brutish and innocent at the same time with one of his wide-eyed stares toward the refs. In other words, typical Pek. However, he did struggle with Blake Griffin's quickness on defense and was not much of a factor in the second half. Grade: B+

JJ Barea (6 points on 2-for-5 shooting, 2-for-2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 7 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, +17 in 22 minutes): Early on, JJ continued his aggravating trend of driving into traffic and turning it over but quickly remedied that by taking care of the ball much better over the remainder of the game (aside from an ill-advised pass trying to get it to brick-hands Darko by firing the ball into about four Clippers players). However, he paced the team well in the fourth quarter by deferring to the obvious hot hands (DWill, Beasley), and finished with a very solid 7 dimes. He clearly frustrated CP3 with his gnat-like defense and his energy seemed to permeate to his teammates during that fourth quarter run. Overall, a solid effort. Grade: B

Ricky Rubio (2 points on 1-for-8 shooting, 7 rebounds, 9 assists, 1 steal, 2 turnovers, -7 in 29 minutes): Ricky's struggles with his shot continued tonight, as he bricked pretty much every attempt. CP3 pretty much dominated the matchup between the starting PGs. That being said, Ricky--as he always does--secured many "50/50" balls due to his unbelievable hustle and helped his teammates out with 9 dimes to go along with 7 boards. Still, his shooting has to improve or teams will continue to go under screens and dare him to shoot. Grade: B-

Darko Milicic (1 point on 1-for-2 FTs, 3 rebounds, 5 (!!) assists, +17 in 19 minutes): RA said he would use Darko as a defensive stalwart when needed. Good thing he helped hold Griffin to a career-high 18 point first quarter and later decided not to guard DeAndre Jordan on an alleyoop despite the fact that DJ's only offensive move is the dunk. Darko was otherwise invisible in the first half--except when he tried to strip Randy Foye in the open court, at which point he demonstrated his inability to strip Randy Foye in the open court. Yes, Darko was on the floor during the dominant fourth quarter and yes he dished out five assists, but I didn't feel like he caused any of those good things to happen. Still, it was better than playing 0.1 seconds and pulling a muscle. Grade: B-

Luke Ridnour (8 points on 6 shots, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 2 turnovers in 25 minutes): I looked at the box score and couldn't believe Luke played 25 minutes. I feel like he didn't have much of an impact on this game, aside from a solid three from the corner that kept the Wolves' momentum going. Otherwise, he was largely invisible on both sides of the ball as reflected by his rather scant stat line despite 25 minutes. Grade: C+

Wes Johnson (5 points on 2-for-6 shooting, 1-for-3 threes, 0-for-2 FTs, 2 rebounds, 1 assist, -14 in 18 minutes): The gods cruelly toyed with Wes by rewarding him with two early FT attempts only to ensure that both shots went halfway down before popping out. The gods showed mercy in the third quarter by rewarding the not-so-young second year player with a deep three followed by an easy layup and an athletic defensive board. Of course, the gods chortled as Wes's next two threes clanged harmlessly off the rim. Wes was not heard from again. Grade: C+

Kevin Love (10 points on 4-for-13 shooting, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, -9 in 25 minutes): Maybe I'm being harsh on Love for putting him here (below Darko and Wes) but these grades are relative. Plus, consider the following: Love started 2-for-10 from the field; he threw the ball away in the back court on an egregious turnover; he got the ball knocked off his chest by Chris Paul 20 feet from the basket; he sat on the floor whining after he thought he was fouled which led to an uncontested DeAndre Jordan dunk; and he didn't play a minute of the fourth quarter. While my heart sank when he left for the locker room with an apparent rib injury, that does not excuse Kevin from having a terrible night. We often decry Beasley when he settles for contested mid-range jumpers, yet Love has been doing that with greater frequency of late. Yes, Beasley is an elite athlete who is more adept at getting to the rim, but Love is at his best when he's bullying his way into the lane and drawing fouls. His shot has not been falling lately which provides all the more reason he should not succumb to Beasley-itis. That being said, I sure hope his injury is not serious because he's still far and away the best player on the Wolves' roster. Considering he came back to the bench and was available to play, I can't imagine it is. Grade: C

That wraps up my first ever FanPost. I hope you enjoyed it. Let me leave you with the following tidbits:

  • Minnesota's bench outscored the Clippers' bench 72 (!!) to 11
  • The Wolves made 13 straight FG attempts spanning the third and fourth quarters
  • Minnesota must've brought the cold with them because temperature at tipoff was sub-50 degrees, and that's DAMN COLD in LA no matter what time of year
  • The Muskies jerseys still suck
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