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Wolves 108, Clippers 101: Losing Streak West-broken in LA

Ant’s defensive masterpiece enables 6 Minnesota players to score in double-digits as they earn a huge victory with postseason implications on national TV.

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Story

The Start

*In Jaden McDaniels’ voice*

I would say...” the expectations going into the game were at an all-time low. However, it feels as though the team had visited that very same low multiple times throughout the season. The next game was still going to tip-off and the Minnesota Timberwolves were still mired in the swamp of .500-ball, yet they would still have another opportunity to turn the season around. Awaiting them were a pair of All-NBA two-way wings who just welcomed back their starting center. Should I also mention they recently added a former league MVP to the starting lineup?

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

In his first action since the All-Star break, Ivica Zubac opened the first sequence of the game by scoring on Rudy Gobert in the paint. That simple gust of wind appeared to be enough to blow the Wolves over. They looked listless on offense while giving up open look after open look to their opponents. The Clippers strolled to an easy 9-point lead even before the first mandatory timeout hit at the 7:00 mark. Gobert looked as lost as ever as the deficit welled up to double-digits. Jordan McLaughlin and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, who each had several productive moments throughout the game, combined for a pair of three-pointers at the end of the first quarter to keep things manageable. It still felt like Minnesota was further away than they were.

The Meat

The Wolves bench unit, led by Kyle Anderson, turned the tide of the game. The defense tightened up after giving up 52.2% shooting to the Clippers. The pace of the offense picked up which generated easier shots. Naz Naiz Reid continued to strike fear into the hearts of his defenders as Minnesota was on the cusp of taking their first lead of the game when Finch decided to reinsert Gobert and the starters. This time, the three-time All-Star came out with a different approach. The center scored 10 points on a perfect 5 of 5 shooting display, showing exquisite chemistry with Mike Conley Jr. and Alexander-Walker.

A 58-56 Minnesota lead at the half stretched out to 68-61 just minutes into the third period. The Wolves used a huge advantage in points in the paint (60 to 38) to maintain a comfortable distance ahead of the Clippers. Their success must have sounded the silent alarm in Kawhi Leonard‘s (23/5/5) robot security brain. Leonard scored eight straight points, but his teammate, Norman Powell, short circuited his programming. After being on the wrong end of a no-call, Powell completed turned his back on the play which resulted in a turnover. He supplemented that with a technical foul for arguing with the Zebras. The perfect chaser was two ill-advised field goal attempts, ultimately resulting in a 9-0 Wolves run capped off by beautiful Alexander-Walker spinning layup.

The Finish

The Wolves had just blown a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter against the Golden State Warriors 48 hours ago. Would two additional points be enough to get them over the hump? Powell did his damnest to right his previous transgressions to the tune of 10 points in the period. Minnesota would wring out just enough points to stay afloat until the former Utah boys were reinserted. The trio continued to show excellent synergy and it felt like the Wolves were going to cruise to the finish line for once, as Anthony Edwards (18/4/3) came up with an impressive block on Leonard and an even more highlight worthy gliding reverse layup in traffic.

It wouldn’t be a 2022-2023 Wolves game without late-game drama though. Paul George (Game-high 25 points), who had mostly been held to an inefficient night shooting the ball, finally had his moment. Facing a 10-point deficit, George would slice that in half in just 33 seconds with 107 remaining. An errant Edwards mid-ranger put the ball back in hands of Los Angeles. The hopeful soon-to-be All-Defensive Team 22-year-old, Jaden McDaniels (Team-high 20 points), did a beautiful job face-guarding George, successfully denying him an initial catch on the perimeter. Russell Westbrook (14/7/10), never one to be shy for the moment, decided to take matters into his own hands and hoisted up a terrible fadeaway jumper which was well defended by Conley Jr.

That was essentially the ballgame. Anderson had a few more final clutch offensive plays to seal things shut, but it was a total team defensive effort that earned the win. Edwards was the head of the snake, as his 1-on-1 defense earned praise from the TNT broadcast team, finishing with a game-high five stocks. The Wolves finally broke their three-game losing streak which dated back to February 16th while pushing the Clippers to a 0-3 record since acquiring Russell Westbrook.

There goes another topsy-turvy day in the league. Minnesota somehow finds themselves still at the 8th spot in the Western Conference, sitting just 1.0 GB of the 6th seed and 1.5 GB of the 9th seed.

You still here?

Minnesota Timberwolves v LA Clippers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Game Highlights

Lead Tracker via NBA Courtside

Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night

Anthony_Onion_Peeler dropping facts. First it was Bryn, then Nowell, now Rivers. Finchy is flyin!

What’s Next

The California road trip continues with stop number three. Well, no traveling is actually involved. They face the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday 3/3 @ 7:30pm CT. The Lakers lost Tuesday night to the Memphis Grizzlies 109-121 and will finish their back-to-back against the Oklahoma City Thunder Wednesday evening. LA will literally limp home from their 3-game road trip on Friday, after the news broke about LeBron James missing at least “a few weeks” while D’Angelo Russell has missed their last two games. The Wolves will be the Lakers’ third game in four nights.

Will KAT be back soon?

Will D’Lo get his revenge game?

Will the Wolves finally beat an undermanned team?

Does any of this matter anymore? Did it ever?