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Wolves 113, Clippers 107: West Coast Winners

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Powered by their front court, the Wolves secured their 15th win of the season.

Minnesota Timberwoves v Los Angeles Clippers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Lose, win, lose, win, lose, win, lose, win, lose...

Win.

The Wolves kept their “one step back, one step forward” theme alive last night against a lowly Clippers squad missing Blake Griffin, Patrick Beverly, and 30-year old rookie Milos Teodosic. Powered by their front court, specifically “First Half Hero” Taj Gibson and Karl-Anthony Towns, the Wolves built a 13-point half court lead and coasted the final 24 minutes en route to a 113-107 victory.

Gibson paced the Wolves early on, attacking the offensive glass and feverishly protecting the paint. The only player in the league to rock #67 finished the first quarter with 10 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks (oh and 12 minutes... but more about that later).

The second quarter saw the Wolves incorporate flashes of team defense (a wild concept, I know) and a 19-4 run to extend their lead to 13, in part because of some unselfish, Spurs-like ball movement...

...and some Warrior-like backdoor cuts:

Despite ranking fourth in the NBA in turnovers per game, the Wolves coughed the ball up 11 times in the first half compared to only 4 turnovers for the Clippers. Nevertheless, the Wolves still carried a double-digit lead into halftime, in large part because all five Wolves starters played 20+ first half minutes while the Clippers gave real NBA minutes to guys named C.J. Wilson, Jamil Williams, Tyrese Alexander, and Jawun Evans (shockingly, only one of those guys is made up).

That 13-point halftime lead could have been bigger, if only for one misguided and ill-advised full-court launch by Taj Gibson (come for the missed shot, stay for Jimmy’s reaction):

Led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Jimmy Buckets, the Wolves stormed out of the visiting locker room in the third quarter, ballooning their lead to 19 and dunking all over the ghost of Lob City past:

It appeared as if the Wolves were well on their way to lighting their third “Cole Aldrich victory cigar” of the season, but Sweet Lou Williams took over, pouring in 18 of his team high 23 in the second half, including this buzzer-beater to wrap up the third:

Williams and DeAndre Jordan (18 points and 21 rebounds), the two lone bright spots for the Clippers last night, combined to give the Wolves just enough of a second half scare that Thibs was forced (and/or possibly delighted) to give heavy minutes yet again to his starting five.

A serious and re-occuring issue during his tenure not only with the Wolves but also during his time as head coach of the Chicago Bulls, Thibs’ (flawed and outdated) fixation on overworking his best players hasn’t gone unnoticed by the national media. After last night’s victory against the Clippers, it appears this issue also hasn’t gone unnoticed by his own players:

While Jimmy delivered the postgame message in jest, it’s important to note that he delivered the message publicly, rather than privately. “Thibs overworking his players” isn’t a new topic for Wolves fans or fans of the NBA. Just last season, the Wolves finished with three of the top six players in the league in average minutes per game (Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Towns).

But with Jimmy now at the helm, this issue takes on a new spin. From 2013-2015 under Thibs, Jimmy finished back-to-back seasons ranked second and first respectively in average minutes per game, and witnessed the previous season as Thibs force-fed minutes to Loul Deng, who finished the 2012-2013 season first in the same category.

Thibs brought Jimmy G. to MSP this offseason for a multitude of reasons, including his ability to #GetBuckets and be a strong, vocal leader both on and off the court. Vocal leaders like Butler often times are praised for telling teammates things they need to hear (even if they don’t necessarily want to hear them).

After recording his fourth straight game of 40+ minutes, it appears the Wolves vocal leader is now turning his attention to the head coach.

Other Notes:

  • According to our good friends at Timberwolves PR, the Wolves didn’t pick up their 15th win last season until 1/19/17 against... you guessed it... the Los Angeles Clippers.
  • The Wolves are now a stout 12-5 this season vs. Western Conference teams, and a meager 3-6 against the Eastern Conference. Go figure. They are also 8-3 in games after a loss.
  • The Clippers bench outscored the Wolves bench 47-22 (help us Belly-Won, you’re our only hope!)
  • “Good Jeff Teague” and Butler combined for 38 points, 15 assists, and only 4 turnovers. The emergence of Jimmy Playmaker has been an extremely important dynamic for the Wolves recent success.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns has now recorded a double-double in a league-leading 20 games and is averaging 19.8 points, 11.6 rebounds, and shooting 52.1 percent from the field. He turned 22-years old less than three weeks ago.
  • Jamal Crawford played his first game back in Los Angeles since signing with the Wolves this offseason, and his former team made sure to honor the Seattle legend appropriately.