7:00 CST on FSN
Tonight the Timberwolves will face their toughest matchup of the season so far as they play the Los Angeles Clippers who have bolted out to a strong start this season. The Clippers and the Timberwolves are teams of polar opposites in their path to success. While the Wolves are hopefully building a franchise built upon their young talent that will achieve long-term success, the Clippers are potentially vying for what could be their last shot at success.
The Clipper's woes in the playoffs are well-document and last season was no different, although a large piece of their troubles was due to injuries. This may be the last time we see this current iteration of the Clippers, as they are now in their 6th year of trying to succeed with Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and DeAndre Jordan. Blake Griffin and Chris Paul both have player options next year in their last year of their contract and both are likely to opt out and resign larger contracts under the new salary cap.
Part of the Clippers problems is that they have never been able to find solid bench players to complement their big three, nor a strong wing to start next to J.J. Redick. This year, the infamous GM Roc Divers brought on Marreese Speights while largely keeping on the same group of players. So far, the bet that the team would continue to gel has paid off in spades as the Clippers have jumped out to an 8-1 record and lead the league in a net rating of 16.07, which is a full seven points higher than the team with the second highest net rating.
In terms of net rating, the Clippers boast the best defensive net rating in the league as well as the 9th best offensive net rating. It will certainly be a test for the Timberwolves to contain the Clippers offense, as the Wolves are still struggling to execute our new coach's defensive schemes. The Wolves have not had challenges scoring so far this season, but tonight will be their toughest test yet.
Thankfully for the Timberwolves, the Clippers are on the second night of a back-to-back as they just defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder last night in a tightly contested game. The Wolves will also hopefully be getting back a healthy Ricky Rubio, who may be making is return debut after a two-week absence due to a sprained elbow. A healthy Rubio would make a world of difference for the Timberwolves, as the consistently struggles without him during Rubio's entire career. Both Tyus Jones and Kris Dunn have had flashes of competency filling in, especially in the last few games for Tyus, but both players are extremely young and have deficiencies in their game which restrict their ability to be truly positive contributors at this point.
However, the Wolves' have often struggled this season with interior defense and tonight will not provide any qualms for that issue. Blake Griffin and particularly DeAndre Jordan have often feasted on offense against the Wolves' bigs and the team will have to work hard to keep up with their athleticism and preventing Jordan from grabbing offensive rebounds. It will be interesting to see how Thibodeau approaches the matchup and where he slots Gorgui Dieng and Karl-Anthony Towns to best defend the Clippers' bigs.
Another thing to watch will be the Timberwolves' threepoint shooting. The team has been off to a blistering start with the highest threepoint percentage in the league, which was recently written about by our own David Naylor here. This is unlikely to continue at the same rate, but it would be encouraging to see key Wolves like Andrew Wiggins maintain a steady clip of threepointers, as well as perhaps Brandon Rush and Nemanja Bjelica picking up their ice-cold shooting.
The Wolves should have a decent chance tonight to steal a win from the Clippers.
Luc Mbah a Moute
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