Wolves (15-42) at Clippers (39-10)
Bally Sports North
There’s nothing to combat your Sunday Scaries quite like a trip to Staples Center for a date with Paul George and (maybe?) Kawhi Leonard, right?
As of writing, Leonard is still a game-time decision, and while I expect that means he will take the night off against a bottom-feeding Minnesota team, but you never know.
While the Clippers are obviously much better with Leonard in the lineup, they’re still a formidable squad behind the direction of Tyronn Lue. In particular, you have to tip your cap to Paul George. He was the butt of numerous jokes during the 2020 playoffs, including from yours truly, but George has come back this season resembling the MVP-candidate he was in 2019 for Oklahoma City.
I love the “Playoff P” jokes as much as the next guy, and he’ll have to show up this postseason to dispel those, but the guy is averaging 23.6/6.3/5.5 on .479/.437/.891, and that doesn’t even mention his defensive prowess. To me, this is the most interesting player (health permitting) in the entire league for the rest of the season. George usually hangs closer to 43-44% shooting from the field and 3-4 assists per game. It’s not a stretch to say this is probably the best season of his career, and that improved efficiency and playmaking will be huge for LA if it holds up in the playoffs.
Truthfully, it feels like we’re in a weird place with the Clippers. They’ve always been the butt of every joke, and last season’s embarrassing collapse only amplified that, but this is still a really, really legitimate title contender, I think. They’ve somehow gone under the radar sitting 39-19 with a +6.5 net-rating, third-best in the NBA.
As for the Wolves, it’s all-systems-go again tonight, as everyone except Malik Beasley and Jaylen Nowell are available. Coming off of the exciting win over Miami on Friday, the real test here is to see if Minnesota can follow that up with any sort of consistency, something they’ve been unable to do pretty much since the Stone Age.
I could be crazy, but I expect this team to be competitive each night as long as Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell are in the lineup. I’ve been lower on Russell than most in the past, but I’ve truthfully been really pleasantly surprised by how well he and Towns have played together under Chris Finch.
On the subject of D’Angelo Russell, I love the fact that Chris Finch is practically using him as a shooting guard who can also handle the ball as opposed to a point guard who runs pick-and-roll until he’s blue in the face. Russell’s shooting is his best attribute on offense, and using with only with the ball in his hands doesn’t maximize that. The more catch-and-shoot threes for Russell, the better off the Wolves will be.
Lastly, I’m just really looking forwards to watching these guys compete. I’m not expecting a win, but like I mentioned before, it feels like the team is becoming more competitive in these games.
Hopefully that continues tonight.