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LA Clippers v Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolf Nightcap, Vol. 7

Moral victories don’t pay the bills.

Kawhi is a fun guy to watch, except when he’s destroying YOUR team.
| Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

MINNEAPOLIS — The slide continues as a winless December grows longer after Friday night’s seventh consecutive loss. Powered by two of the games elite stars, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George combined for 88 points to lead the Clippers to the 124-117 win.

After a lifeless third quarter that began with a 7-0 run, Karl-Anthony Towns eventually had to ride the bench with 4 fouls for six straight minutes in what seemed like a questionable decision in real-time — from the 9:09 mark to 3:00 — and the game got totally out of hand without him. It felt all but over as the Wolves went down 21 points heading to the fourth.

In almost unexplainable fashion, the fourth was wildly different. I still don’t know what clicked. The Wolves fired back with a 20-4 run fueled by Towns’ 18 fourth-quarter points and nine of Teague’s 22 off the bench. Karl was absurdly good in this one, finishing with 39 points and 12 rebounds on 37.6 usage and 70.3% True Shooting %. This is how Ryan Saunders needs to use him every single game, allowing KAT to control more of the offense at the top of the arc with the ball in his hands. Let him create! Let him drive downhill. Let him dictate the action.

It’s just, well, the dynamic Clippers duo, with a dash of the invaluable Montrezl Harrell off the bench — a true star in his role like his teammate that didn’t play tonight, Lou Williams, aka the Underground GOAT — were better, as they often are most night’s in the league. Harrell dropped 18 points while the rest of the roster managed only 18. My takeaway after seeing this title contender live: Clippers are so good it doesn’t even really feel like they are trying all that hard. (One of the LA teams will play the Bucks in the Finals.)

I should also mention that Andrew Wiggins was also quite good in his scoring role, adding 34 points on 72.3 TS%.

As the losing streak grows, it’s probably time this team does some soul-searching and perhaps this 4-day break before the Pelicans come to town next week is happening at exactly the perfect moment. A once-promising season is slipping away. Maybe the inspiring start was all a mirage. Maybe this is the real version we were always going to get. It’s time for them to decide how they want this season to go. So, we’ll see how they respond to adversity.

Notes & Quotes (h/t Wolves)

  • This was a season-high 39 points for KAT on 12-of-22 shooting, including 5-of-10 from three. Tonight marked his 54th career (sixth of the season) 30+ point/10+ rebound game. He only trails Kevin Garnett (64) for most such games in Timberwolves history.
  • With his five treys tonight, all coming in the fourth quarter, Towns marked his eighth career game with five or more threes, passing Randy Foye and Latrell Sprewell for third-most games with 5+ threes in team history.

  • With Towns’ 18 points in the fourth quarter, it marked a career-high for points in the fourth quarter. His previous high for a fourth quarter was 17 on four occasions (MR vs. Oklahoma City on 4/7/19).

  • Andrew Wiggins added 34 points on 12-of-20 shooting, including 8-of-8 from the free throw line, marking the fifth 30-point game this season (38th of his career). Tonight marked the sixth time in his career he scored 30+ points without missing a free throw.

  • Tonight marked the 31st time in Timberwolves history that two players scored 30+ points in the same game and second this season (Teague, 32 and Towns, 30 at OKC on Dec. 6). It is the third time that Towns and Wiggins have scored 30+ points in the same game.

  • For the second straight game, Jeff Teague scored 20+ points off the bench as he finished with 22 points on 6-of-9 shooting, four rebounds and five assists. Teague is the 16th player in Timberwolves history to have consecutive games of 20+ points off the bench.

  • Wolves finished the game 31-37 (83.8%) from the free throw line, marking the most made free throws of the season. Tonight marked the first game in the NBA this season in which both teams made 30+ free throws (Los Angeles, 35 and Minnesota, 31). It is just the third such game involving the Timberwolves since 2006.

  • Kawhi Leonard had 42 points while grabbing a team-high 11 rebounds. His 31 points in the first half is tied for the sixth most points by a player in either half this season. He is also the third player in the NBA this season to have 30+ points and 5+ rebounds in a half. Leonard finished 19-of-19 from the charity stripe, accounting for a career-high in free throws made and the most made in the NBA this season without a miss. He is the first Clipper to have 40+ points and 10+ rebounds since Blake Griffin on 2/26/17 vs. Charlotte.

  • Paul George contributed a game-high 46 points, seven assists and five rebounds tonight. It is the sixth time in franchise history that a Clipper has had 45+ points, 5+ assists and 5+ rebounds and the first time since World B. Free on 10/12/79 vs. Lakers.

  • Tonight marked the second time that two opposing teammates have scored 40+ in the same game against the Timberwolves, joining Kevin Durant (40) and Russell Westbrook (45) on 3/23/12 at Oklahoma City.

  • I wanted to make sure to add something about this (I asked Saunders about the defensive rebounding issues playing small with RoCo at the 4 and he says it’s fixable, though I remain skeptical):
  • Somehow they’re only 1.5 games out of the playoffs after 7 losses. Ugh.

  • Covington turns 29 today! HBD to thy Lord.

  • Poliça played at halftime!!!

Ryan Saunders

On playing poorly for a long stretch:

“I mean yeah you get frustrated, but I understand that we gotta learn, too, with everything. It doesn’t feel good to learn in games but we have to be more attentive to the details in things, understanding that late in games every defensive rebound, and I understand that we are playing smaller, but we gotta have five guys in there. We need those possessions. We can’t be turning the ball over in the open court when it is a close game, we need to get a shot every possession. I would like to think that it is growing pains, but it is things that you have to learn from.”

On Robert Covington in the fourth quarter:

“I thought he was very good in the fourth quarter. I thought he was playing very solid, which is what we need. That is what we needed defensively, just to be solid. We are going to keep reiterating that. I am excited that we have a few days to practice now. I am really looking forward to that because we need to get better.”

On the fourth quarter:

“With the games, you are always going to take the good and the bad. Especially when you are changing over systems, offensively and defensively. Hey, we are on a losing streak, we get it, you want to have some extended periods of time where you are doing the right thing, and you can show where the system is working. Having that it will be good to point to those things but it will be good to have a full game.”

His postgame comments:

Robert Covington

On if the team found something in the fourth to build off of:

“Absolutely. The way the game was going early on you could tell our spirits was a little down, period, from the way the game was going. But overall, once we decided to change that up we got back into the game and you started to see a different mindset of everyone and you seen a different vibe and energy and that’s something we can build off of. It’s just we can’t wait until we get down to sit up here and do that stretch.”

On if the team did things differently in the fourth quarter:

“No. We got after each other. We understood that we had to make something happen before the game gets out of hand and we started to amp our energy up, our defensive pressure. You know, Kawhi and Paul George had a tremendous night, so we had to do something because them was the main two that was scoring. So, we just had to do something to keep them off the, slow them down and we was able to do that.”

Andrew Wiggins

On whether encouraged by the fourth quarter or discouraged by first three quarters:

“I’m disappointed by the loss, but we fought back. We were down big, dug ourselves a hole but we fought back. We went out swinging. The end result wasn’t how we wanted it to end but there were some positives we can take from it.”

On what the positives are:

“Offensively, the pace of the game we were playing at. We got good shots and everyone was touching the ball. In the third quarter the ball kinda stuck. In the fourth quarter we got it moving again.”

On how much the team needed the fourth quarter comeback:

“We needed it to remind ourselves that we put ourselves in a good position in the beginning of the year. We worked hard for it. We can do the things we want to do, we just have to stay consistent with it.”

Doc Rivers

On the game getting close late in the game:

”We created that – what, had a hundred turnovers late in the 3rd and 4th quarters. I thought we let up a little bit. Give those guys credit, Ryan kept them engaged. They could have easily thought about the next game but they didn’t. I think we did.”

On Paul and Kawhi getting going:

”That was great. We knew without Lou tonight, we were going to run every play through them. They came up big and made the right plays for the most part, until down the stretch when we started turning the ball over.”

On the team’s bounce-back from their first road loss, to winning four straight:

”I think we think we’re good. We know we’re going to lose a game here and there, but we don’t hang on them. We get to the next game and keep building. We know we’re a work in progress. We know we’re going to be a lot better.”

Kawhi Leonard

On if he felt like he and Paul George had to take the bulk of the scoring into their own hands with less reserves available:

“Yeah, we got into our spots early, made shots. Paul carried us in that second half. You know, the guys stepped up tonight and they stepped into those places, the guys missing, you know played great.”

On being the first Clippers’ teammates to both score 40+

“I mean it’s great, I mean to just have somebody else out there help scoring the ball, making the game easier for myself. We’re still trying to build our chemistry out there. We didn’t close that fourth quarter too great, end of the third. We still got improvements we need to make, we’re not complacent with what went on.”

Montrezl Harrell

On the lineup changes:

“This is a real diverse team and there are a lot of times that guys on this team, like we still tell people, we are still figuring it out, what is that final lineup going to come to. While we are doing that it’s good that we are still putting together the right amount of stops and the right execution on the offensive end of the floor to still win games.”

On if there were a number of wins to make this a successful road trip:

“No, I don’t think that we did we wanted to come in and win every road game but we dropped the first one and it was an ugly loss and you know after that, I think we were all on the same page. We didn’t want to have that feeling anymore for the rest of this road trip or any night in general and we said that we are not going to lose anymore on this road trip so we have been doing everything that we need to do as far as resting, preparation and how we want to approach each game. We approach each game with an offensive and a defensive scheme of what we want to do and I think we have been running it to a ‘T’”.

Time for a song to end this

I’m going to go drink a glass of red wine and probably watch some Netflix for about 17 minutes before falling asleep on the couch next to my beautiful dog Rubio Meyer.

I’ll leave you with a song that I love listening to in the middle of winter as the annual disappointment starts setting in, when I begin wondering to myself if I could get along without this franchise very well. Of course I could. Except perhaps all winter. I should never think of winter. For that would surely break my heart in two.

I get along without you very well
Of course I do
Except when soft rains fall
And drip from leaves, then I recall
The thrill of being sheltered in you arms
Of course I do
But I get along without you very well

I’ve forgotten you just like I should
Of course I have
Except to hear your name or someone’s laugh
That is the same
But I’ve forgotten you just like I should

What a guy, what a fool am I
To think my breaking heart could kid the moon
What’s in store, should I phone once more?
No, it’s best that I stick to my tune

I get along without you very well
Of course I do
Except perhaps in spring, but I should
Never think of spring
For that would surely break my heart in two