The Pick: Clippers 111 – 104
As much as I like the Timberwolves and the roster they’ve built, they are still a step (if not more) below the Clippers. Both teams prefer to play offense (both rank in the top-five in points and assists) as opposed to defense (both teams are allowing over 100 points per game), and with superior athleticism, the rested Clips have an advantage in what figures to be a high-scoring affair.
These are professional athletes, but they are still human, and the amount of rest a team has is important. Los Angeles hasn’t been on the road in 11 days and had last night off while the Timberwolves have been on the move, alternating away and home games and are coming off a hard-fought loss in Washington last night.
The tired legs figure to be a big problem against a Clippers team that is averaging 108 points over their last five, a stretch that includes a 109-107 win over these very Timberwolves in a game where Minnesota seemingly got everything they wanted … and still lost.
Kevin Love, Nikola Peckovic, and Kevin Martin combined for 76 points with eight 3PM and 14 FTM on 16 attempts to go along with 30 rebounds. Ricky Rubio did his thing with 10 dimes and a team-high plus/minus ratio (+10). Speaking of +/-, Minnesota’s starters had a cumulative +32 rating with no negative contributors, while the Clippers starting unit was -24 with no positive figures.
Rubio did a good job on Chris Paul, forcing the elite point guard into a season-high six turnovers. The Clippers shot 25 percent from distance and were outscored in transition by three points. Minnesota locked up the much improved J.J. Redick, holding him to a season-low seven points (he has averaged 17.6 in the other 10 games this season).
Even with all that said, the Clippers still won. I wouldn’t bet on the majority of those trends continuing through this game, but one aspect will be the same: the Timberwolves will be playing for the second time in as many days.
For the season, Lob City has the fourth-best aFG% (52.7 percent), an area where the T-wolves struggle (ranking 18th at 48.6 percent). Even what Minnesota does well (second in free throw attempts against) could easily come back to haunt them in this one as the Clippers’ frontcourt could have a field day if they aren’t getting fouled.
Fun Fact: Minnesota has scored less than 20 points in three times in the third and fourth quarters of their last two games. That may not sound like a big deal, but in a game where both teams average about 27 points per quarter, one low-scoring quarter could very well be the difference in the final score.