The Clippers (52-22) are currently sitting comfortably as the 3-seed in the Western Conference,with time still left for them to make a move up in the conference standings (they're 2.5 games behind Oklahoma City for the 2nd slot).
The record books may not indicate it, but these two teams have had some intense, fun battles in the past. For Wolves fans, this is the reel they enjoy watching most:
That game came in a season (2011-12) when the Wolves went 3-1 against the Clippers. While there have certainly been a good supply of games between these two teams since, the Clippers have been winners in every game since that season, and are in the midst of an 8-game winning streak against the Wolves.
The closest the Wolves have gotten was their most recent matchup, a late December 120-116 loss that took overtime to determine the outcome.
Tonight's game might be a good opportunity for the Wolves to snap the streak, with Blake Griffin's status questionable after leaving with back spasms their win in Houston on Saturday. At this point, it's unclear who would start in his place. They played Matt Barnes 37 minutes as a result of Griffin's injury, and played some 4. That may be a tougher task against Kevin Love, though he's done it before in short stints in previous matchups
The Wolves won't be able to capitalize, however, if Kevin Love isn't 100 percent for tonight. Last night in Brooklyn, he looked out of it and fatigued, and certainly not he Kevin Love NBA fans are used to seeing.
As mentioned by Jerry Zgoda in his recap for the Star Tribune a night ago, Love's fatigue may be more than the grind of the NBA season.
"I don't know, I might be getting sick or something. I just had zero energy in the second half. I got nothing."
Coming back to Minnesota, and being on the tail-end of a back-to-back, Love will be someone to keep an eye on tonight.
The Ricky Rubio vs. Chris Paul matchup looks like a good one on paper, but Rubio has really struggled shooting the ball against the Clippers this year, shooting just 23.5 percent in three games. CP3 has put up 20 ppg and 11.7 apg in the three matchups.
Even with the difference in production, it's a pretty safe bet that the two of them will make the game more entertaining.
One of many things the Clippers have going for them is the strength of their bench, starring Jamal Crawford and his love of buzzer beaters against the Timberwolves. On most nights, the Wolves' reserves cannot make the same claim, as evidenced by this tweet from last night:
#twolves bench got outscored for the 50th time in 72 games. 41-23 was the margin tonight, outshot 44% to 35%.— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) March 31, 2014
Kevin Love's contributions will obviously be key, but to give the Wolves the extra push they need against this Western Conference heavyweight, the bench will likely need to step up as well.
The game will be at 7pm tonight, and broadcast on FS North. We'll have game threads up later tonight.