Last Monday the Minnesota Timberwolves stagnated offensively in the final frame against the Los Angeles Clippers, recording just one field goal throughout the entire fourth quarter. Although Ricky Rubio completed his fourth career triple-double (18 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists) the Wolves were unable to overcome miserable late-game execution--while Chris Paul dissected his way to 26 points and 14 assists--and the Clippers left Target Center with a win, 110-105.
In the fourth quarter of the loss, the Wolves scored their last 16 points from the free throw line and finished 1-for-14 from the floor, tying a franchise record for fewest field goals made in a quarter. The Wolves had shot 51.5% (35-for-68) through the first three frames. This is a good segway into the next...portion of this article.
Even before the season much was, and has been, made of Flip Saunders' coaching philosophy--particularly the lack of three point attempts created by his offensive system. Saunders offense instead focuses on offensive rebounds and getting shots at the free throw line. Here are some interesting numbers from last Monday's box score.
The Clippers shot 12-of-33 from three point range--the Wolves were 4-of-15. This means the Clippers outscored finished +24 in points created by three point shots. The Wolves weren't blown out of the water, though, and managed to keep the deficit close throughout the game by scoring 29 points from the free throw line.
Saunders' club went to the charity stripe an astonishing 35 times. In contrast, the Clippers finished just 10-of-19 from the FT line, leaving the difference in the Wolves' favor at +19.
Subtract the difference in points created by free throws (19) by the difference in points created by three point shots (24) and we're left with five. In this instance, five points happened to be the difference in the game, seeing that the Wolves lost, 110-105.
The Clippers, who lead the all-time series, 51-48, have won the last 11 matchups against Minnesota but will be without at least one key cog when these teams tip-off later tonight.
Blake Griffin is still recovering from a surgery that removed a staph infection on his right elbow; Matt Barnes was doubtful but for played over 20 minutes in Sunday's loss to Golden State while Jordan Crawford did not play due to a right calf contusion. Barnes did not play and Crawford was mostly ineffective when the Clippers and Wolves met on Mar. 2. The status of both players for tonight's matchup is uncertain.
Tonight's game is the 11th in a 14-game run during which the Wolves face 13 teams with records over the .500 mark; the combined winning percentage of those 14 opponents is .623 (538-326). Next up will be the Phoenix Suns, Oklahoma City Thunder and San Antonio Spurs, before a meeting with the Brooklyn Nets at Target Center next Monday, as nine of the Wolves next 12 games will be played on the road.