The Wolves needed this win in the worst way. Holding onto the 8th seed by just a couple of games, the Wolves needed to grab a win here to ensure that they could solidify their place in the playoff race while trying to keep up in the Western Conference Mad Max race to the finish line.
Thankfully, everyone seemed to be on tonight. When even Jamal Crawford is making plays on defense, you know that things are going well.
The first half of the game was back-and-forth. The Wolves were playing well, but could not get any separation from the Clippers. Minnesota was shooting incredibly from the field and playing some decent defense, but the Clippers had a distinct advantage on second-chance points. A lot of that was DeAndre Jordan, who is basically impossible to stop once he gets the ball near the basket, either on a putback or a lob.
The notorious bench trio of Derrick Rose, Tyus Jones, and Jamal Crawford got some run in the first half. The group managed to hold an even keel and Rose got a few nice buckets in a row. Rose’s play is obviously going to be contentious throughout the season, but he played well tonight, following up on his performance against the Rockets. He reportedly sprained his ankle in the first half, but finished with 9 points in only 7 minutes.
The third quarter is where the game really took off. Tobias Harris, who was questionable with the flu coming into the game, picked up a few quick fouls in the third quarter and had to exit the game. The Wolves then went on a tremendous run, spurred in large part by Jeff Teague. They ended up winning that quarter 36-25, which essentially sealed the game as Doc Rivers pulled his starters with about 7:30 left in the 4th quarter.
Teague just got wherever he wanted in that third quarter. He had not scored a point until the 2nd half, but then was able to get into the lane with ease. The Clippers simply could not stop Teague at the point of attack and the Wolves were able to pick apart the Clippers’ defense. Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns ran pick-and-roll actions down the throats of the Clippers.
Outside of the Teague playing perhaps his best game of the season, this was a really strong performance from Andrew Wiggins and Towns. Wiggins put up 27 points on an efficient 9-16 from the field, including 4-5 from the three-point line. He also had three blocks and generally played great defense all game. There was one hustle possession where Wiggins almost stole the ball from Rivers, got behind the play due to the effort, then came from behind Rivers to almost steal the ball again. The hustle play was duly noted by the Target Center crowd who encouraged Wiggins on.
THE CROWD LOVES A WIGGINS HUSTLE PLAY DO MORE OF THOSE ANDREW— Punch-Drunk Wolves (@PDWolves) March 21, 2018
KAT had one of those games that we have almost come to expect from him. He finished with 30 points and 10 rebounds, seemingly able to score from wherever he wanted on the floor. He bullied smaller guys down in the post, made some outside jumpers, and was an effective roll-man in the two-man game with Jeff Teague.
On his 38th birthday, Jamal Crawford had a “good Jamal” game. It’s always hard to know when they are going to come, but from his first shot, Crawford looked locked-in. He ended up with 20 points, with some great drives to the hoop.
Nemanja Bjelica and Taj Gibson played within themselves tonight. Both players got their normal shots off, Bjelica’s just didn’t go in. However, both played well and certainly were the important glue-guys that they have become.
One last Wolves note, there was some weird rotation stuff happening with the bench. Tyus Jones and Gorgui Dieng got the quickest of hooks in the 4th quarter, getting pulled after about 50 seconds to start the quarter. It’s hard to tell what is going on in these sorts of situations, but both players have to be a bit confused and concerned about their place on this team.
An infamous “flu-game” this was not for Tobias Harris. Outside of a brief stint at the beginning of the game, he simply looked out of sorts and finished with 10 points on 5-16 shooting, missing all five of his attempts from beyond the arc. Harris has been one of the leading scorers for the Clippers and without his scoring punch, the Clippers offense struggled to put anything together.
The Clippers, as a team, struggled shooting the ball. The Wolves put together one of their most cohesive defensive performances all year and it certainly showed up on the stat sheet. As a team, the Clippers shot 43 percent from the field, and that includes Jordan’s 9-11. Take away Jordan, and the Clippers only made 37 percent of their shots.
Lou Williams was uncharacteristically quiet, although he did finish with 15 points, but most of his damage was done at the free throw line where he was 7-7.
Of course, the most exciting thing about the Clippers was the Boban sighting. Boban Marjonovic is just an immense human. It is incredible to see him tower over everyone else on the basketball court. He had some solid minutes in the first half and had one run of possessions where he blocked a shot without leaving the ground, then on offense caught a pass one-handed and just flipped it into the basket without leaving the ground again. Between Boban, Milos Teodosic, and a cast and crew of a random assortment of NBA players like Sean Kilpatrick, the Clippers have a bunch of guys that are just fun to see on the court.
This was a game that the Wolves sorely needed to win and it was great to see them pull it off. Jeff Teague certainly deserves all the accolades for his performance tonight and it was an across-the-board great game.