Following a tough loss in Oklahoma City Friday night, the Wolves head back to the Target Center tonight to take on the Los Angeles Clippers. And after a strong start to the season, the Clippers have since sputtered out of the top of the standings and currently sit at 10th in the West.
Los Angeles started out the year 5-2, surprising most people considering the offseason loss of maestro Chris Paul. But the expectations for the Clippers’ season quickly caught up with them as they proceeded to lose their next nine games in a row. They enter tonight on the heels of an ugly 26-point loss to an unspectacular Dallas Mavericks team.
Part of their sudden downfall can be attributed to the fact that the ol’ injury bug has struck LA early this season — and it hit hard. So far, they’ve lost their gritty backcourt stalwart Patrick Beverly for the season, recent acquisitions Danilo Gallinari and Milos Teodosic until mid-December, and the franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin for the next couple months.
In a conference as competitive as the West, it’s hard to imagine they stand even the slightest chance of recovering from this many setbacks and sneaking into the playoffs. Blake Griffin is an incredible player, but with him gone for at least two months, the Clippers are forced to rely on a combination of unproven young guys and Lou Williams. There’s a lot of speculation swirling around DeAndre Jordan at the moment and if/when the Clippers blow things up and deal him.
All of that’s to say the Wolves face a team tonight that’s been ravaged by injuries and the offseason loss of one of the best point guards the league has ever seen. Really the only concerns the Wolves will have on defense will be Lou Williams, who is streaky but has been known to get hot à la Jamal Crawford, and Austin Rivers, who has been ice cold and currently has a 44% true shooting percentage on the season.
As for the Wolves, they’ve been pretty difficult to predict. The loss to the Thunder was visible a mile away, but beating the Pelicans in New Orleans was, frankly, unexpected on the second night of a back to back after a brutal loss at home to the Wizards. They have failed to take full advantage of the schedule recently, with unfortunate losses at home to the Pistons, Heat and Wiz over the last couple of weeks.
They must pile up the wins over the rest of December, with a relatively soft schedule through the new year. and that starts tonight.
One last note: Jamal Crawford faces off for the first time against the team he played for (and for whom he won Sixth Man of the Year Awards) for the previous five years.
Projected Starting Lineups
Wolves 104, Clippers 88. Assuming John does his little voodoo-reverse-prediction magic, the Wolves should have no problem containing LA. If they can keep Lou Williams in check and don’t let DeAndre Jordan bully them around beneath the basket too much, the Wolves should be in good shape. This is a game the Wolves need to win, and a game they should win.
Of course, we’ve thought that before.
Our blogging buddies are over at Clips Nation.