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Wolves 121, Clippers 100: No Flex as the Best in the West

Minnesota professionally dismantles one of the best teams in the Western Conference with an unfair defensive performance.

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NBA: FEB 12 Timberwolves at Clippers

The Minnesota Timberwolves entered Monday night’s prime time contest against the Los Angeles Clippers with well over three whole days of rest. Both teams were focused on making a statement to the Western Conference contenders that they should be the number one team heading into the All-Star break.

Boy, did the game not disappoint.

The Start — Going Hard in the Paint

With an obvious size advantage, Wolves Head Coach Chris Finch opted to attack the paint early and often. Ivica Zubac did his best to joust with Rudy Gobert (17/10; 5/5 FT; 4 blocks) and Karl-Anthony Towns (24/4/3; 12 FGA), but he was ineffective as the Wolves marched out to a nine-point lead in the first quarter. Early game ball movement has been a positive trend for Minnesota all season, as evidenced by their 10 assists on 11 made field goals in the first, helping them earn an 18-8 points in the paint advantage. Things looked to be going smoothly until Kawhi Leonard (18/4/1) rocked the rim with two straight tomahawk jams, capping off an 11-point quarter of his own to keep the Clippers within striking distance.

The Meat Heavyweight Battle

Wolves fans got their first look at the newly acquired Monte Morris (5/2/2; 2 stocks) to start the second period. The “Count of Monte Assist/TO” impressed with his patented smart play on both ends of the court. He played a 8:43 stretch that included swishing his first field goal attempt/three pointer in a Wolves jersey and two beautiful defensive sequences.

Morris’ contributions helped cap off a 8-0 run that contributed to a double digit lead. Unfortunately, following a Tyronn Lue timeout, Los Angeles embarked on their own run, rattling off 10 straight points in four minutes of game time. The Wolves played strong defense for many of those possessions, but second chance points and points off turnovers haunted them. Paul George (18/6/3; 31.3 FG%) and James Harden (17/2/6; 38.5 FG%), in particular, took the opportunity to combine for 16 points in the second quarter including a pair of triples to end the half. Despite a mostly solid effort by Minnesota, the Clippers surprised them with a 53-49 lead as they headed into their respective locker rooms.

The third quarter presented the same grueling prize fight that you would expect to see from two healthy teams at the top of the standings. Finch went back to the well that got them their first lead of the game. The paint. Anthony Edwards (23/7/8; 1 TOV), who went 0/6 from perimeter in the first half, changed his mindset and went straight to the rim. He ripped off four straight points and exacerbated the Clippers interior defensive issues by tagging Zubac with his third and fourth fouls. Gobert and Towns followed his lead, helping Minnesota regain a lead on a 8-0 run.

Good teams respond though. Los Angeles immediately answered the call with their own 8-0 run to regain the lead. It looked as though both teams were going to trade uppercuts until the final buzzer. Highlight plays were abound, including George dropping Edwards and Morris like they were bowling pins.

The Finish Showtime Wolves

Edwards’ aggressiveness in the paint paved the way for Minnesota to break the game wide open late in the third. Despite some tough shot making by the Clippers, Jaden McDaniels (11 points; 2 stocks) and Nickeil Alexander-Walker (15/2/5; 3/3 3P; 2 steals) played outstanding perimeter defense which would eventually wear them out.

Finch would astutely call a timeout despite being up 79-71 with the ball and insert Towns back in the game. KAT would lead a parade to the free throw line, helping Minnesota put on a perfect 14/14 charity stripe clinic in the third quarter alone. This also helped open up opportunities like a wide open Kyle Anderson 3-pointer, who shot it like it was 2022-2023. By the time the third quarter buzzer sounded, the Wolves worked their way up to a massive 89-72 lead, holding the Clippers and their trio of future hall of famers to 35.0% shooting and five turnovers in the period. It was all academic from there, as the defensive masterclass continued. Los Angeles’ attempts at a comeback were futile and even when they did score, Naz Reid (11/7/1) would easily return fire as the lead ballooned up to 22.

From there, the Wolves turned Crypto.com Arena into the Minnesota Timberwolves Highlight Factory. Feast your eyes.

This was perhaps one of the most impressive victories in a season full of them. As Gobert shared in the postgame interview, they played playoff basketball. The Wolves dismissed the Clippers by smashing them in point in the paint (64-42), breathtaking ball movement (33 assists on 46 makes), and pristine shot selection (54.1% vs 40.5%). They now increase their lead atop the Western Conference standings and have a commanding 2-0 series lead on Los Angeles, which may be a big deal come the end of the regular season.

Outstanding performance.

Game Highlights

Lead Tracker

NBA Courtside

Canis Hoopus Comment of the Night

You know it’s a good win when NBW says so.

What’s Next

The Wolves will be hopping on a two and a half hour flight to visit the 14th place Portland Trail Blazers for a pair of away games. The first match takes place Tuesday, 2/13 at 9:00pm CT. These teams have only played each other once so far, with Minnesota steamrolling Portland 116-93. Anfernee Simons was held to an 0/10 shooting night.