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Timberwolves at Clippers: Game Preview

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The Wolves have to get right back at it tonight when they face the Clippers at Staples Center, the night after a rough loss to the Lakers in the same building.

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Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Wolves at Clippers
9:30 pm CST
ESPN

No rest for the no doubt weary, as the Wolves face the Clippers at the end of a four game road trip and one night after a dispiriting loss to the heretofore hapless Lakers. Things won't get any easier tonight against a much better and red hot Clippers team that has solidified itself in 4th in the Western Conference.

On Christmas Day, the Clippers beat the Lakers following three straight losses; the win pushed their record to a disappointing 17-13 on the year, but they lost Blake Griffin to an injury.

Since then, the Clippers have gone 15-3, and now sit 32-16 on the year with Griffin on the sideline having injured himself again in a fight with a member of the Clippers basketball staff. They don't seem to miss him much, as they are in the top 10 both offensively and defensively,

Chris Paul seems back to his expected form after looking a bit sluggish to start the season, they are getting a monster shooting year out of J.J. Redick, who is at 48.6% from three, and DeAndre Jordan continues to benefit from the attention the Clips get on the perimeter to get wide open dunks on the regular, and is shooting 71% from the field.  He remains one of the worst free throw shooters in the league, however, at 42%, and is the frequent victim of intentional fouls.

They've been so good without Griffin that there are even rumblings about whether they should consider trading him. I seriously doubt that would happen, but the Clippers do desperately need help up front and more depth if they want to go further than the 2nd round, something that seems unlikely this season in any case. They are a poor rebounding team at both ends of the floor, something the Wolves will look to take advantage of by grabbing some offensive boards.

In their last game, a blowout win over the Bulls that was driven by 17-32 shooting from three, the Clippers started Luc Mbah a Moute up front with Jordan, and no other big got even double figures in minutes. Playing small can work, but not when it's your only choice.  Even with Griffin, they lack depth up front, with Cole Aldrich and Jeff Ayres their only real big options off the bench.

I'm hopeful that, at least with Mbah a Moute out there to start the game, Sam Mitchell tries to use his size mismatch to good effect. Mitchell has tended to allow other teams to dictate the matchups more often than not by responding to teams going small by going small himself.  In this case, he should try to take advantage if the Clippers; lack of size, especially since Mbah a Moute is not going to hurt them from the perimeter, even with Gorgui Dieng guarding him. Try to punish them down low and on the boards; it's the one spot where you have a clear advantage.

Still, it's a tough spot for the Wolves, finishing up a four game trip with a back to back against a much better team. Last night's loss was quite dispiriting given it was their best chance for a win on this trip, and it followed losses to just average teams in Utah and Portland. The Wolves seem once again destined for the depths of the standings.

After tonight, the Wolves have a three game home stand starting Saturday, with the Bulls, Pelicans, and Raptors coming to town, after which they are off for more than a week for the All-Star break.

Expected lineups

Clippers

Chris Paul
J.J. Redick
Paul Pierce
Luc Mbah a Moute
DeAndre Jordan

Wolves

Ricky Rubio
Andrew Wiggins
Tayshaun Prince
Gorgui Dieng
Karl-Anthony Towns

Check out Clips Nation for more on tonight's opponent.

Oh, and go play some FanDuel. It's fun.