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Clippers 119, Wolves 105: Rubio returns, but LA cruises to 6th straight win

The Clippers entered the night with the best record in the NBA, and that didn’t change.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Minnesota Timberwolves Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — The Clippers entered Saturday night with the best record in the NBA at 8-1, boasting a net difference of +15.2 points per game.

After narrowly beating Oklahoma City on the road last night, to get off to their best start in franchise history, the Clippers came to Target Center and further exerted their early season dominance in a 119-105 win over the Wolves on Saturday night.

“They’re playing so well on both sides of the ball,” Thibodeau said afterwards, before Doc Rivers made his way into the press conference to jokingly interrupt him to ask what’s taking so long; Rivers was impatiently waiting to catch up with Thibodeau.

“They’re sharing the ball offensively. They’re playing together and then defensively, they’re together and make you work for everything,” he continued.

“They put pressure on you. Chris Paul is a master at running the team. I thought JJ [Redick] got going, moving without the ball and we gave him too much space. Those are the things ... the big thing is the discipline. We gifted Chris (Paul) eight free throws. He’s clever side to side with the ball, shot fake, forcing switches, shot fake off the dribble. Redick...air space, defensive transition. Those things hurt us.

They’re a team that’s really big and they’re in the paint. I thought that was one thing we did do better, was get into the paint. We gave more help. That might have hurt us some from three, but I thought that that was an improvement. I liked the way we shared the ball. When we got going offensively a little bit, we had good penetration and then we had good passing to create some good shots. That’s how we got back into it.”

What are the issues holding the Wolves back?

“Right now we’re not consistent enough,” Thibodeau said. “We have to build the right habits, and defensively it’s hard to win when you’re giving up 119 points.”

On a positive note, Ricky Rubio made his return after spraining his right elbow two weeks ago in a road loss to the Sacramento Kings. After missing five games, Rubio filled the box score with seven points, six assists and six rebounds in 24 minutes.

Karl-Anthony Towns scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his second consecutive 20+ point, 10+ rebound game and his fourth double-double of the season. He added two blocks and two steals in 33 minutes, but his biggest area for improvement is on the defensive end. He needs to be a force for the Wolves like Jordan is for the Clippers. That won’t happen right away but there’s no question he has to be better defensively if the team is going to improve dramatically. Right now he’s not a game-changer on the defensive end.

Andrew Wiggins scored 22 points, his sixth 20+ point performance of the season, but shot a dismal 8-24 from the field and forced too many of those shots. Cole Aldrich scored a season-high eight points off the bench against his former team. After being held to five points over the last three games combined, Nemanja Bjelica scored eight points on 3-6 (2-3 from three-point range) and added a season-high four assists.

The Clippers improved to an NBA-best 9-1 this season, their best start in franchise history. Blake Griffin had 20 points and 11 rebounds to collect his seventh double-double of the season.

DeAndre Jordan snatched 16 rebounds, adding 18 points to record his third double-double. Former Wolves wing Luc Mbah a Moute did an incredible job of defending Wiggins, while also scoring a season-high 15 points on 6-8 shooting in 33 minutes.

You might remember the Wolves traded Derrick Williams for him back in the day. He didn’t stick in Minneapolis though and now he’s exactly the type of wing defender the Wolves could use. Rivers said he was playing like the best defensive player in the league after the game.

Los Angeles held a 21-10 edge in fast break points. They entered the game tied for third in the NBA with 17.2 fast break points per game.

My advice after another loss, though you might not want to hear it: Don’t think about it too much.

The Clippers are currently playing awesome basketball, while the Wolves are still trying to find themselves as Thibodeau implements his new system. These things don’t happen overnight, as much as everyone would like them to.


Sneak peak: There were some amazing alley-oops in this game

Quotes (via Wolves PR):

Clippers Head Coach Doc Rivers

On the team’s performance considering a back to back:

“That was great. I thought the key was early though, I thought our starters came out and performed great, the defensive energy ... Luc right now is, there’s nobody in the league that’s a better defensive player than Luc. I mean what he is doing and when you have him and DJ together, it just makes our defense special and the fact that he’s scoring is all gravy right now, so it’s been good.”

On Blake Griffin…

“Last night Blake had it going in the third quarter and I don’t think he got a shot in the fourth quarter because the ball was moving to other people and he was the guy moving it. He is just a great scorer but he is such an unselfish scorer that it makes our team better.”

On fouling DeAndre Jordan…

“I don’t like the hacking stuff at all, but teams have done it back-to- back nights and there’s nothing you can do about it. DJ’s making the free throws, so we’re good.”

On the difficulty as a player to stay locked in throughout the season…

“Yeah it’s a lot of games, I think we’re doing the best we can. I was worried about tonight, to be honest yet they still had good focus so that’s all you can ask for. When your starters give you, I think 90 points, you’re going to win a lot of games.”

On Luc Hitting Big Shots…

“He’s been doing it the last three or four games he’s got great confidence, more importantly our guys have confidence in him. Blake made a pass to him in the left corner – last year that pass probably wouldn’t have been made and that shot wouldn’t have been taken, so the fact that we’re trusting the pass and Luc’s taking the shot has been important for us.”

On feeling good about the start to the season...

“Well, our bench is different. I said it before the year, this is the best team I’ve had here. But we’ve gotta keep doing it. We’ve gotta keep getting better and perform. This is a heck of a basketball team.”

Karl-Anthony Towns

On going against the Clippers defense...

“We had to do a better job. As a team, we took some hard shots, we took some tough shots. We moved the ball well in the beginning, tried to find some shots that we liked. First off, we’ve all been shooting pretty well today so we gave it our best shot, tried to do it the best we could.”

On the team’s mindset...

“We feel good about every day, we’re getting better. We’re getting better every day. We’re improving as a team, regardless of what the record shows. We’re just trying every single day to take ourselves to the next level.”

On if he thought it would be this hard this season…

“The NBA is hard. It’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would be part of it. That’s why there’s only a special select group that gets to be a part of this fraternity. We know every day, no matter what the team is, it’s going to be a hard game and you’ve got to earn the win.”

Andrew Wiggins

On the team’s third quarter struggles…

“It was tough. We had to work for our shots. They clogged the paint up, switching everything, contesting every shot. They made it hard on us.”

On the team’s mindset…

“It’s a good thing about the league...we play again tomorrow. We’ve got to focus on that game. This game is out of the window already. We’ve got something new tomorrow.”

Ricky Rubio

On how he felt after returning to the lineup…

“Trying to find a rhythm. Trying to find how to run the team, too. First game back after a couple weeks. Just get the rust out.”

On the Clippers defense…

“That’s why their record is so good. They’re playing good basketball right now and the key, I think, is the defense. They have DeAndre in the paint and it’s hard to get there. Their defensive pick and roll is good. I think we didn’t play our best either, but you’ve got to give them credit.”