- Who: Minnesota Timberwolves (13-14) at Los Angeles Clippers (16-13)
- When: 9:10 PM CT
- National TV: ESPN (Mark Jones, Mark Jackson, Jorge Sedano)
- Local TV: Bally Sports North Extra (Michael Grady, Jim Petersen and Katie Storm)
- Radio: 830 WCCO-AM
- Line: Wolves +6.5 | Total: 223.5 (courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook)
primetime matchup in the City of Angels.— Minnesota Timberwolves (@Timberwolves) December 14, 2022
Wolves at Clippers
9pm CT, https://t.co/dEhIrNeFgM Arena
» @ESPNNBA / @BallySportsNOR EXTRA
Preview » https://t.co/x3WNmVKslB pic.twitter.com/cKxn09Drh8
What To Watch For
The Timberwolves are looking to avoid their fourth three-game losing streak of the season. But in order to do that, they have a tall task in front of them in slowing down a high-powered Clippers squad that boasts the best wing duo in the NBA in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Wolves killer Reggie Jackson, and a deep bench capable of extending leads on any given night.
It’s gut check time on national TV once again for a Minnesota team that played very uninspiring ball in their 133-112 dismantling at the hands of the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday evening. Now, they’ll be without D’Angelo Russell (left knee contusion).
Here’s what I’ll be keeping a close eye on.
Can Minnesota Defend the 3-Point Line?
The Timberwolves’ 3-point defense has been abhorrent so far this season, as they rank 28th in the NBA in opponent 3-point percentage (37.8%) and opponent 3-point attempts, and last in opponent 3-pointers made. As Wolves’ radio play-by-play man Alan Horton points out, Minnesota is also last in per game 3-point scoring differential (-9.6).
Wolves 3-PTM differential has grown to -3.2 per game (-9.6 PPG ) -- 30th in NBA. And right now getting beat with volume & efficiency...— Alan Horton (@WolvesRadio) December 14, 2022
Games Opp 15+ 3PTM
14 -- MIN
11 -- LAL
11 -- DEN
Games Opp 40+% 3PT%
13 -- MIN
13 -- SAS
12 -- BRK
Los Angeles ranks 10th in percentage (36.6%) and 13th in makes (11.9), but are top-10 in both categories over their last handful of games. My lone fellow Boston College alum still playing in the NBA, Reggie Jackson, rose to the level of Wolves killer last season behind his particularly potent long-range shooting. Jackson scored north of 20 points in three of his four regular season matchups with the Wolves last season, shooting 12/25 (48%) in those trio of Clippers wins. He kept that rolling with 17 points and three made 3s in the play-in game.
Luke Kennard (46.3%), Nic Batum (39.8%) Marcus Morris Sr. (38.7%) and Paul George (38.4%) all shoot it at 38% or better and all will see significant run tonight given that John Wall (left knee injury management) and Norman Powell (left groin strain) are both out tonight for the Clippers. Jackson (35.4%), Robert Covington (35.3%) and Terance Mann (35.2%) aren’t far behind. For reference, only Kyle Anderson (43.5%) and Taurean Prince (38.9%) clear that 38% mark for the Wolves.
Minnesota will have to force L.A. shooters off the line and into the teeth of their defense, where Rudy Gobert, Anderson, Jaden McDaniels and Anthony Edwards can all use their length to disrupt the Clippers on the drive, before making correct back-line rotations. Running shooters off the line is a double-edged sword with this team, though, because they have struggled with rotating and fouling on rim attacks. If that happens, this one will turn into a drive-and-kick and/or free throw fest rather quickly and that won’t bode well for the Wolves.
Will Play-In Game Anthony Edwards Make a Return?
Edwards played one of his best games as a pro when the Timberwolves fought back from down 10 with just under nine minutes remaining to defeat the Clippers in the Western Conference 7/8 Play-In Game last spring. He scored 10 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and held his matchups to 4/11 shooting and forced three turnovers while on the floor.
With Russell (left knee contusion) out tonight, the Timberwolves will need another 30-plus-point performance from Edwards if they want to keep this one close. We’ve seen Edwards raise his level of play when the Wolves are short-handed and tonight will be another opportunity for him to put the team on his back and make a ginormous offensive impact.
Timberwolves Head Coach Chris Finch said pregame that he expects Edwards to have the ball in his hands more tonight and run more pick-and-roll with Rudy Gobert, which is a growing aspect of Ant’s game. When Ivica Zubac is out there, he’ll face drop coverage, but while Zubac is on the bench and Morris Sr. or Batum play as a small-ball 5, they’ll be switching. How Edwards can attack both styles of defense and make plays accordingly will set the tone for the Timberwolves’ offense.
Will Rudy Gobert Be a Weapon or a Weak Spot?
There’s no doubting that Gobert can be one of the more dominant players in the NBA when he’s playing at the peak of his powers. Teams that can play five out and keep low the number of offensive possessions that Gobert can destroy by himself have found success limiting his impact on the game. The Clippers, of course, headline the teams that are able to do that.
But Gobert has been dominant over the Wolves’ last four games, averaging 19.5 points on 66% shooting, 15.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 2.0 steals and 0.8 blocks across 33.9 minutes per game, in which he has netted an average plus-minus of +7. If he can feast against Zubac inside early and control the paint on both ends, that’ll give the Timberwolves a good opportunity to make this a game in the fourth quarter.
He did so in two Utah Jazz wins last season, by 21 and 29 points, respectively, but both were in Salt Lake City. The Frenchman averaged 16.0 points, 16.3 rebounds and 2.0 blocks in his three games vs L.A. a season ago, and he’ll have to play at that level again tonight.
- Jordan McLaughlin (left calf strain)
- Taurean Prince (right shoulder sublaxation)
- D’Angelo Russell (left knee contusion)
- Karl-Anthony Towns (right calf strain)
- Norman Powell (left groin strain)
- Jason Preston (G-League assignment)
- John Wall (left knee injury management)
The Minnesota Timberwolves will tip off against the Los Angeles Clippers at 9:10 PM CT. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV.