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Wolves at Clippers: Late Night Crew

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Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford are out again as the Wolves start their three-game road trip.

NBA: Los Angeles Clippers at Utah Jazz Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (30-18) at Los Angeles Clippers (23-22)
9:30 PM CST
NBATV

It was an unpleasant surprise to see Jimmy Butler and Jamal Crawford scratched not long before the game against the Raptors this weekend. Butler had a sore knee and Jamal was dealing with a toe injury and the spotlight was on Minnesota’s two young stars.

Fortunately, KAT and Wiggins rose to the occasion, with a little help from Marcus Georges-Hunt. It was a surprising victory and one that has me convinced Andrew Wiggins’ struggles this year are mostly due to determining his new role as third banana.

He had 29 points (11-21 FG, 6-6 FT), five rebounds and three assists. They weren’t just empty stats. Two of Wiggins’ boards, one offensive and one defensive, were at the very end of the game when the team was trying to close it out. He also hit the three that took the lead with 2:25 remaining and the team never gave it up.

We haven’t seen a ton of complete games from him like you want in a max player, but I’ve seen him do the little things throughout the year, and I’ve seen him score.

If he can learn how to use his talent as an off-ball guy, and continue to improve on defense and decision making, this team can reach elite levels. If he fails to figure out how to do everything on a consistent basis, Thibs may want to consider staggering him and Jimmy more often to allow Andrew to be the guy on second unit.

This is what Jimmy had to say in a Q&A with the Star Tribune when asked if he was the most talented individual on this team:

“Who, me? Hell no, Wigs is. Wigs is the most talented by far. I see him do things and I’m like wow, like how? The crazy part is that was at 40 percent. Just think if you’re 80 percent or what if you just go as hard as you can, 100? Wigs is easily the most talented person on this team.”

And when asked if he would get there?

“Playing with me, you’ve got no choice because I’m going to get on your nerves every single day until you do what I know you can do, what I expect of you, what we expect of you. Then it’s going to make winning a lot easier.”

Butler seems to think Wiggins is a max guy, the question is, will he get that out of him? Time will tell.

As for tonight, Butler and Crawford are out yet again so Andrew is back to being a top two banana!

This also means we get to see some fat MGH minutes. Canis newcomer, Charlie Johnson, wrote about him today and I encourage you to check out his piece. It’s a good read, and I especially like that our front-office is getting some credit for finding the guy.

It feels there have been so many role players that have come and gone throughout the years, but we rarely find that younger diamond in the rough. Successful franchises find talent for every role in their organization and Marcus looks like a great glue guy off the bench.

I am excited to see him possibly match up on defense with Lou Williams, who has been a flamethrower for the Clippers after coming over in the Chris Paul trade.

Perennial sixth man contender, this year Lou is pushing himself into the All-Star conversation. He is averaging 23.4 points, 5.0 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.1 steals on 45/40/90 shooting splits.

In his last game he scored 31 points, tallied seven assists and had 10 steals, however, it was a loss to the Utah Jazz.

Fortunately for Minnesota, DeAndre Jordan is out, meaning they will need to focus on Blake Griffin and Williams. The Clippers are 4-1 since Blake’s return from injury, showing just how valuable to the team he really is. I expect Taj Gibson to match up with him and Karl will be given Willie Reed to start.

Even with Butler and Jamal sitting, I think the team has what it takes to beat LA. Both Wiggins and Towns love these marquee matchups. The teams share a similar defensive rating, though Minnesota has been playing much better of late. KAT and Andrew showed in the last game they can still lead a great offense, and I think they do it again.

Projected Starters:

Wolves:

Jeff Teague
Andrew Wiggins
Nemanja Bjelica
Taj Gibson
Karl-Anthony Towns

Clippers:

Milos Teodosic
Lou Williams
Wesley Johnson
Blake Griffin
Willie Reed

Prediction: 123-114, Wolves win. Wiggins will score 35 points.