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Clippers at Wolves: Every Game Matters

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There are no nights off in the rugged West.

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

Clippers (37-32, 17-17 Away) at Wolves (40-31, 26-9 Home)
Game #72, Home Game #36
7:00 pm CT

TV: FSN | Radio: WCCO (830 AM)

ESPN’s Matchup Predictor favors Minnesota: 66.1% win probability

Injuries: Danilo Gallinari (hand) and Jimmy Butler (knee) are out and Tobias Harris is questionable due to the flu, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times.

Wolves/Odds:
Spread: -4
Money line: -180
Over/Under: 226.5

PREVIEW

“Every game matters,” is a popular line being used around Target Center these days from the players and coaches to media and fans. That might sound cliche, of course every game matters for teams in the thick of the playoff race, but it’s a phrase that has rarely been said around Minneapolis, in a positive sense, since the days of KG. (Yes I know that Kevin L., Kevin M., Ricky R., Rick A., the Godfather and others went 40-42 in 2013-14, but you get the point.)

Tonight’s game at Target Center against the Clippers is yet another game in a string of contests that one can easily label as “the most important game of the season.” They all feel that way as we sprint towards the finish line.

While the Wolves don’t necessarily ***NEED TO*** beat the Cry Baby Clips* tonight to ultimately make the playoffs—the final 10 games are all winnable, too—they certainly need every win they can get to help avoid going up against one of the behemoths, Houston or Golden State, in the first round.

(*I’m sure fewer tears have been shed on the court since Blake Griffin was shipped to Detroit in exchange for Tobias Harris, Avery Bradley, Boban Marjanovic, and picks.)

Denver lost last night in double overtime down in Miami after letting the Heat score the most points, 149, in franchise history. A win tonight against the Clippers would help give the Wolves, along with the Thunder, Spurs, Jazz, and Pelicans just a little bit more breathing room.

Current standings in the West...

DeAndre Jordan is always a tough cover for the BIG KAT but Towns also typically gets his against DAJ on the other end as well. (Broken record: Karl-Anthony is an insanely gifted offensive talent and sometimes I shake my head at how simple he makes everything look.)

Teague and Wiggins ripped the Clippers for 70 points last time these teams met in LA but Griffin was in the picture back then too. Wiggins, for whatever reason, always seems to perform well against the LA teams. As an aside, Wiggins has scored 20+ points in eight of the last 10 games, averaging 20.8 ppg and shooting 41.5% (17-41) from long distance.

The Wolves, luckily, also might not have to deal with the stretchy Tobias Harris, who has performed well in his time with the Clippers but is questionable to play. Forwards that shoot the three ball well and can hover around the perimeter have killed the Wolves this season. That remains a weakness. If Harris sits out, Lou Williams and Austin Rivers will likely be asked to carry the load even more than usual in a very important game for Doc’s squad.

Keeping Lou Williams in check is anything but a simple request though. The man is an absolute flamethrower off the pine; Lou has scored 30+ points off the bench 11 times this year, the most in a season since Ricky Pierce did it 17 times in 1989-90.

KEEP AN EYE ON...Nemanja Bjelica. Professor Big Shots, aka Serbian Sinatra—some announcer said this during the preseason against GSW—has been playing great in Jimmy Butler’s absence and went for 18/9/4 last time the Wolves beat the Clippers. Taj Gibson said Belly was the reason they won that game and he should show up in a big way again.

Speaking of Mr. Clean, Taj’s last two games have been arguably two of his worst outings in an otherwise outstanding first season in Minnesota. Foul trouble doomed him on Sunday against the Rockets. In San Antonio, he couldn’t get anything going at all. There’s a pretty decent chance that Taj is hitting a wall and the heavy minutes are finally catching up to him—2,374 minutes in 71 games are the most minutes he’s ever played in a season—though now that I write that, I fully expect Gibson to bounce back tonight and perform well; strong first quarters are key for him.

Derrick Rose had his best game as a Wolf last outing (15 points on 6-11 shooting in 19 minutes) and will look to build on that performance. The problem is minutes for him likely come at the expense of Tyus Jones, who is one of the better players on the team and has earned the minutes that are now being gift-wrapped to Thibs’ former soldier. This is another situation plenty of people are paying close attention to.

On another note...it’s Jamal Crawford’s 38th birthday today and he should be pumped to get buckets against his former team. Happy 18th 21st birthday to Jamal “Forever 21” Crawford, who recently passed Bob McAdoo (18,787) for 60th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. He needs 32 points to pass Isiah Thomas for 59th.

NOTES (via Timberwolves PR)

2017-18 vs. Clippers (3-0)

  • Sunday, Dec. 3 at Minnesota — W, 112-106
  • Wednesday, Dec. 6 at Los Angeles — W, 113-107
  • Monday, Jan. 22 at Los Angeles — W, 126-118

Minnesota’s current five-game series run is on the heels of L.A. winning 16 of 17. They’ve swept the Clippers twice (1997-98 and 2003-04).

First Meeting: Jimmy Butler pumped in 33 points en route to a 112-106 victory over Los Angeles on Dec. 3 at Target Center. Taj Gibson had 20 points and 11 rebounds for Minnesota while Austin Rivers topped the Clippers with 30 points and Lou Williams added 23 points and 10 assists.

Second Meeting: Karl-Anthony Towns totaled 21 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks, and Jimmy Butler added 19 points and eight assists to help the Timberwolves fend off Los Angeles, 113-107, on Dec. 6 at Staples Center. Lou Williams and Austin Rivers led the Clippers with 23 points apiece and DeAndre Jordan collected 18 points and 21 rebounds.

Third Meeting: Andrew Wiggins erupted for a season-high 40 points and Jeff Teague had a season-best 30 to help the Timberwolves fend off Los Angeles, 126-118, on Jan. 22 at Staples Center. Karl-Anthony Towns pulled down 17 rebounds for Minnesota while Blake Griffin led the Clippers with his seventh career triple-double (32 points, 12 rebounds, 12 assists).

PREDICTION TIME

Well, well, well. If it isn’t time for a prediction like old times (earlier this season). There is LITERALLY NO WAY AT ALL the Wolves walk back to their locker room tonight after the final buzzer with smiles on their face because they swept the Clippers.

No way at all. Can’t see it happening. Get the dumpster fire gifs ready. Prepare your Twitter fingers for endless negative tweets ripping Thibs and the boys. This is a big fat L in the making. No doubt about it! If you need me after the game, don’t bother. I’ll be busy watching the new Migos Walk It Talk It video.

(Keep in mind, I am dead serious.)

(This in no way is my highly successful reverse prediction magic.)

(Go Austin Rivers and the Clippers!)