By: Dan Slaubaugh
Happy Saturday, Wolves fans.
Tonight, the Wolves have their toughest matchup of the season so far with the LA Clippers in town. The Clippers, currently 8-1 and sitting atop the Western Conference standings, will be on the end of a back-to-back after defeating the Thunder last night 108-106. They're loaded ... and pretty freaking good.
Their Big Three are still among the top NBA players at their respective positions. Chris Paul, 31, has showed no signs of decline and keeps flirting with 20 and 10 on a nightly basis. Blake Griffin is an athletic freak who has added to his offensive repertoire. DeAndre Jordan will once again be a candidate for Defensive Player of the Year. They have lots of extra scoring punch with JJ Redick (great two-way player), and Jamal Crawford. They are supremely talented offensively, and are an elite team defensively as well.
Now that I've scared you straight, here's some good news.
Ricky Rubio will return tonight after a five-game stint on the sidelines (sprained right elbow), which is great considering you don't want Dunn and Jones matching up against Chris Paul the entire game.
Minnesota (and Rubio!) look to upset and carry over the momentum from Wednesday night's victory (ORL) against the No. 1 seeded Clippers tonight.
What to watch for:
LAC P&R: You'll see it a lot tonight. Chris Paul is one of the best at executing the play. Why? He has two frontcourt weapons that were perfectly made for this particular play. As you can see in the GIF below, Chris Paul will receive a screen from Blake Griffin, who will then roll and draw Jordan's defender off of him. Griffin then just simply lobs it up to the pogo-stick that is DeAndre Jordan who finishes the alley-oop on what probably looks like a nerf-hoop to him.
It's one of the most deadly plays in the NBA, especially because Paul has elite shooters on the perimeter he can dish to if Griffin can't get open. Thibs and the Wolves will be tasked with trying to stop this action tonight.
Struggles without CP3: The team often struggles when Paul needs to take a breather. The team's offensive rating was 113.7 with him on the court and 99.5 with him out last season. Austin Rivers and Raymond Felton aren't the most efficient backup point guards' you can find. However, the Clips are coming off of a back-to-back tonight, so he may see more bench time tonight as a precaution to not getting overworked.
Can the Wolves get stops? The pups will be able to run with LAC tonight, but they're going to have to bring it on defense if they want to come away with a victory. For some reason, when these two teams match up, it usually comes down to the wire. So Minnesota will have to get stops down the stretch if they want to upset LA's best basketball team.
Starting tonight, Minnesota faces a stretch of 13 games in 22 days that includes three back-to-back sets (Nov. 12-13, Nov. 25-26, Dec. 2-3).
Minnesota boasts the NBA's best three-point percentage at 41.4%. SF Andrew Wiggins sits atop the league at 63.6%, which is a great sight to see for Wolves fans. As David Naylor noted yesterday, he'll probably regress (LaVine a bit as well), but Rush/Bjelica should get better as well. However, LaVine regressing will still be over 40%, which is still spectacular. Overall, Thibs appears to have installed an offense that will get players open treys, which was obviously a goal at the start of training camp.
The Clippers are currently giving up a league best 88 points per game. The next lowest is Utah at 93 points per game.
Minnesota: Ricky Rubio - QUESTIONABLE (elbow).
Clippers: Has not yet been released.
Wolves score plenty, but can't get stops in crunch time.
Clippers win 98-93. Wiggins and Towns combine for 40+ points. Bazz pours in 15+. JJ Reddick nails 4 treys.
Thanks for reading. Enjoy the game. Go Wolves.