The Los Angeles Clippers are “oh, so close” to being whole again and just showed what their full potential can be in advance of a meeting with the visiting Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday.
The Clippers got off to a hot start Monday, overcame a second-quarter lull and cruised to a 113-93 victory over the NBA-best Boston Celtics. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George led the Clippers in scoring as expected, with a combined 51 points, but it was the Los Angeles defense that showed why the team is finally becoming one to reckon with.
The Clippers held the Celtics below 100 points for the first time this season, showing a complete package in just the eighth game this season that Leonard and George have played together.
“We did a great job pretty much across the whole board,” George said. “… Of course, you could nitpick and probably clean up a lot of possessions, but I think when you look at this game overall, we did pretty much everything that we wanted to do from a game plan standpoint.”
Close to a return is sharpshooter Norman Powell (groin), who would give Los Angeles its full array of talent. After missing the last seven games, Powell could be back as soon as Wednesday.
As well-rounded as the Clippers can potentially be as a team, it is Leonard that was expected to guide the way. His 25 points Monday came mostly on 10-of-12 shooting from the field.
“This is a very talented team right here,” Leonard said of the Clippers. “A lot of guys could score and shoot the basketball so we all gotta make sure to show our talents out there.”
Against the Timberwolves, the Clippers could match a season-best, three-game winning streak.
Minnesota hopes to be where Los Angeles is soon, as a team with its stars back in the fold. The Wolves will play without Karl-Anthony Towns (calf strain) for the seventh consecutive game and his return isn’t expected for another two weeks, if not more.
Without Towns, Minnesota has managed to break even at 3-3, but is coming off consecutive road defeats against the Portland Trail Blazers. The most recent defeat was a 133-112 decision on Monday when the Wolves saw their opponent shoot 45.7 percent (21 of 46) from 3-point range.
D’Angelo Russell scored 23 points for Minnesota and Rudy Gobert grabbed 20 rebounds in the defeat. It was Gobert’s fourth game with at least 20 rebounds this season.
Minnesota shot a respectable 49.5 percent from the field but was outrebounded 54-37 overall despite Gobert’s best efforts while also missing nine of its 19 free-throw attempts. The Wolves made 10 of their 27 3-point tries (37.0 percent).
The Wolves do not take a large number of shots from distance, especially without Towns, falling middle of the pack at 33.0 per game. Head coach Chris Finch said that defending the 3-point line is critical in order to keep opponents within reach.
“That’s indicative of a team that is 13-14, you’re pretty much inconsistent by nature,” Finch said. “At this point, there certainly isn’t a magic button to push to help. I think maybe our sharpness to start the game, that’s one thing that has been an indicator for me. When we start sharp and locked in is when we play well.”
–Field Level Media