After a horrid first quarter, the Clippers forced a 40 point swing, going from down 20 to winning by 20 in a rout of the Timberwolves on the road. Keep reading for a full recap of the Clippers’ comeback win over the Wolves.
The Clippers looked dreadful to start the game. Starting out in a zone defense, they weren’t attentive enough to run it properly, giving up wide open looks to the Timberwolves, who cashed them in. Things were far worse on offense, where the team went scoreless for four and a half minutes after an early Bledsoe layup due to poor ball movement, bricked shots, and horrid turnovers. Down double-figures early, the Clippers battled to hang in, mostly by playing more through Paul George. The entry of the bench unit helped with energy, but not with execution or shot-making, though Terance Mann did nail a couple nice pull-up midrange jumpers. Two missed free throws did not help matters, and the Clippers trailed by 10 entering the second quarter.
The second quarter began with a new unit, as Ty Lue cut his rotation down to just eight players, with Bledsoe, Luke Kennard, Mann, George, and Isaiah Hartenstein on the court. Unfortunately, the experiment did not go very well, with poor defense (way too many wide open threes), poor rebounding (Jarred Vanderbilt owned them), and no good shot creation on offense. Soon, Lue brought back Zu, who had a couple nice plays, but then went ultra-small with Batum at center and Reggie and Bledsoe alongside Mann and PG. This unit was a complete disaster as well, and Lue, clearly scrambling for answers, went back to Reggie and Zu for the struggling Bledsoe (and Mann). Finally, the Clippers made hay, going on a 10-0 run and getting the lead as low as seven before the Wolves brought it back up to 10 entering halftime.
The 3rd quarter could not have been more different from the first half. The Clippers’ defense absolutely swarmed the Wolves from the jump, playing extremely physical, doubling up Towns in the post, and not letting them get clean looks. Meanwhile, their offense remained clunky, but they were able to score just enough to chip away at the lead. Finally, after another stop, the Clippers were able to take the lead. Even Eric Bledsoe’s continued cold shooting couldn’t stop the Clippers’ run, as Zu, George, and Batum dominated on defense. The Wolves finally got going offensively late in the quarter when that trio was out, but Reggie Jackson scored a couple buckets to keep the Clippers lead at 3.
The Clippers’ defense kept up the pressure in the 4th, and the Wolves collapsed like a house of cards. They were unable to get quality shots, and turned the ball over frequently. George’s defense, in particular, was exceptional, continuously poking the ball away for steals. Soon the Clippers offense was able to get going, and what was a small lead became a 20-point advantage in what felt like the blink of an eye. George marched to the free throw line time and again, fouling out Jaden McDaniels and Patrick Beverley, and the Wolves folded. The game continued for a couple minutes, but the clock was just running out, and garbage time finally commenced with around three minutes to go.
Zu Breaks Out: After a very solid first game against the Wolves on Wednesday, Ivica Zubac had his best game of the season and one of the finest of his career, scoring 14 points on 5-7 shooting and 4-6 from the line while collecting 14 rebounds in 31 minutes. However, it was not Zu’s counting stats that stood out, but his defense. With Nic on Towns, Zu was free to “guard” Jarred Vanderbilt or Jaden McDaniels, which really meant lurking in the paint as a free help defender. He dominated around the rim on defense, swallowing up numerous Wolves’ shots and preventing even more. The Wolves are tailor-made for him defensively, and he won’t play this well every game, but hopefully this is the turning point of the season for him.
PGDPOY: This doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as PGMVP, but it might be just as applicable eight games into the season. Paul George has been absolutely monstrous on the defensive end. He’s been a menace on ball at the point of attacking, walling off drives to the rim and slithering around screens to keep with shooters and ball-handlers. He’s also been everywhere as a help defender, continuously pickpocketing drivers and snatching wayward passes to ignite the Clippers in transition. And, most impressively, he’s even supported the Clippers around the rim, going vertical to prevent easy layups at the hoop. Averaging three steals per game undersells how good George has been on that end. On a night he didn’t shoot well, he dominated on defense and with rebounding (he’s averaging around 9 per game on the year after tonight). He’s locked in right now on both ends.
Ty Cuts the Rotation: After writing about how bad Justise Winslow has been so far in the previw, Ty Lue showed he and the staff were thinking along the same lines, excising him from the rotation. However, instead of adding someone else, they just went with eight players, with Mann, Kennard, and Hartenstein being the lone bench players to check in before garbage time. While that worked well in tonight’s game, the minutes load is simply untenable – George played 38 and Jackson 37 in this one. Someone has to step into that 9th man role, whether it be the returning Marcus Morris or someone else. If it’s not Winslow, maybe Amir Coffey or even Brandon Boston can get a look. But the eight-man rotation assuredly won’t last long.
Bledsoe’s Shooting Struggles Continue: After a miserable first half where he was a -20 and the worst Clipper on the court, Bledsoe made a huge impact in the second half, particularly the third quarter. His defense was on point, and while he still couldn’t make any shots, the pressure he put on the Wolves in transition led to fouls and follow up points for the Clips. That kind of stuff is well and good, but Bledsoe not only can’t shoot from three, eh can’t make shots around the rim or get his midrange jumpers to fall. Those weaknesses in the halfcourt are devastating for spacing, and it’s just tough to justify him continuing to start when Terance Mann continues to excel on both ends and Luke Kennard hits every three in sight. Hopefully the second half helps turn him around.
Nic Batum is Awesome: That’s it, and that’s all. What a signing. What a player.
That about does it for this rollicking, feel-good recap of the Clippers’ win over the Timberwolves on the road. The Clips are now .500 despite some real injury issues, so celebrate in the comments below!