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Game #11: General Soreness Returns in LA

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Jimmy Butler is back as the Wolves take on the Clippers

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Portland Trail Blazers Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota Timberwolves (4-6) at LA Clippers (5-4)

9:30 pm CST

FS North

The storyline tonight, as it is with almost every Wolves game these days, is Jimmy Butler’s status. The disgruntled star has decided he’s going to be active tonight, so there’s that.

After the debacle in Portland last night, a competitive showing from Minnesota would be a welcomed sight. They have been wildly inconsistent on a game-to-game basis thus far, which actually could work in their favor tonight. Anything that looks remotely consistent with the effort from last night will be painful to watch.

The Clippers have been a competitive team this year, even after the departure of DeAndre Jordan this offseason. There were some who speculated that the exit of the final member of the “Lob City” core would mean the Clippers would take a step-back, but that hasn’t really been the case. The improved health of Danilo Gallinari combined with the continued emergence of Tobias Harris has kept the Clippers competitive thus far.

Another reason that LA has not dropped off much has been the play of Montrezl Harrell. He’s instant energy and hustle off the bench, and has been extremely productive for Doc Rivers. It will be interesting to see how Karl-Anthony Towns plays tonight while dealing with the size of Marcin Gortat as well as Harrell’s energy.

The biggest bright spot for Minnesota this year has been the play of rookie Josh Okogie, and the Clippers also have to be pleased with the play of rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The Kentucky product has looked incredibly smooth and under control in his minutes, and Doc Rivers can only keep giving so many minutes to Pat Beverly for so long given SGA’s recent play.

Overall, the Clippers are an extremely balanced team. They get their production from a wide variety of players. This strategy has been working out great for them, especially with the absence of that elusive superstar that most franchises need to win.

For Minnesota to have a chance to win tonight, it will be all about team defense. As stated, the Clippers don’t have that one guy on offense you need to center your entire defense around. Tobias Harris or Lou Williams are probably the closest thing they have to that type of offensive force, but if you overcommit to Harris, you leave opportunities open for Gallinari, as well as the microwave that is Lou Williams. The Clippers are deep with solid contributors, and giving too much attention to one guy is going to open up opportunities for the rest of the cast.

Offensively, it would be nice to see the team play with some cohesion as Butler returns to the lineup. That’s probably a pipe dream at this point, but we can just call it wishful thinking for now. I’d like to see Butler at least look at KAT when he’s open, and getting KAT some shots from beyond the arc would be a great way to get the LA bigs outside of the paint.

Expectations are pretty low tonight, and every game that Butler plays feels kind of depressing. Another strong performance from Josh Okogie would be a great way to distract everyone from the circus that’s happening off the court.

It will also be imperative for Minnesota to get Tyus Jones going on offense. His shooting splits are terrible right now, and an improved Tyus would do wonders for the Wolves tonight, especially since he’s likely the starting point guard as Derrick Rose is still nursing a sore ankle and Jeff Teague’s out again with a knee injury.

Lastly, and not to beat a dead horse, but Minnesota must rebound the ball better. They are getting dominated on the glass, and they did again last night. The Clippers’ big men are active and play with a lot of energy. If Minnesota doesn’t match that, it’ll likely be another long night on the boards for the Wolves.

Projected Lineups

Minnesota Timberwolves

Tyus Jones

Jimmy Butler

Andrew Wiggins

Taj Gibson

Karl-Anthony Towns

Los Angeles Clippers

Patrick Beverly

Avery Bradley

Danilo Gallinari

Tobias Harris

Marcin Gortat

Injuries: Minnesota - Jeff Teague (knee) out, Derrick Rose (ankle) questionable

Los Angeles - Luc Mbah a Moute (knee) questionable