Timberwolves can't hang with Clippers' long-range shooting

Chris Hine, Star Tribune
·3 min read

LOS ANGELES - On paper, Sunday was never going to go well for the Timberwolves.

The Clippers are the No. 1 three-point shooting team in the league and entered Sunday shooting 42%. The Wolves have the worst three-point defense in the league as coach Chris Finch has focused on Minnesota improving its paint defense.

Sometimes, basketball really isn't all that complicated.

The Clippers shot the lights out and ran the Wolves out of Staples Center for the second time this season in a 124-105 victory.

Los Angeles shot an eye-popping 19-for-34 (56%) from deep through three quarters, an impressive number even for them, and finished 21 for 42 with the reserves, including former Gophers Daniel Oturu and Amir Coffey, closing out the game in the fourth. The Wolves shot only 41% overall.

Paul George had 23 to lead Los Angeles while Kawhi Leonard returned from a foot injury to score 15. There was no need for any Clippers starter to play the fourth quarter as Los Angeles led by 35, 104-69, entering the fourth.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 16 for the Wolves and appeared to get an injury to his right foot or leg in the fourth. Towns remained on the floor for a few more minutes before coach Chris Finch subbed him out the rest of the night. Anthony Edwards had 23 on 6-for-16 shooting. Oturu had seven points.

The Clippers were clicking on both ends of the floor to start the game, with George asserting his stamp on the night with 12 first-quarter points. With Leonard on the floor, the Clippers were able to jump out to a 24-14 lead. The Wolves defense struggled in transition as Los Angeles was able to hit some early looks from three-point range.

Leonard, who was playing for the first time in five games, came out around the four-minutes mark and Russell entered the game for the Wolves four minutes later than he entered Friday against Miami.

As the bench did against the Heat, it led a surge for the Wolves when they were down double digits. With Towns out, the Wolves were able to chop into the Clippers' lead 29-26 by the end of the quarter and despite a 16-8 rebounding advantage Los Angeles had in the first 12 minutes.

However, the good vibes for the Wolves wouldn't carry into the second quarter. Rajon Rondo got the Clippers bench together to start the quarter as Los Angeles went on a 19-4 run. The end of that run featured six straight points from Ivica Zubac, who was starting in place of the injured Serge Ibaka.

It didn't get much better for the Wolves the rest of the quarter.

The Clippers were on fire from three-point range. Marcus Morris hit three, as did George and the Clippers finished shooting 14 of 24 from deep for the half. That percentage (58%) was better than they shot from two-point range (50%) and both were better than the Wolves shot overall in the first half (42%). The Clippers also grabbed 28 rebounds to the Wolves' 15 while Edwards struggled driving to the room. He was just 2-for-9 as Leonard and Zubac made his life difficult anytime he drove it. As a result, Los Angeles led 72-53 at halftime.

At other times this season, the Wolves, for all their issues, have come back in games like this, but carrying over from their blowouts against the Bucks and Nets last week the Wolves had no match for the Clippers, who just kept hitting shots and getting easy buckets. Those games the Wolves had the excuse they didn't have Towns. This time they did.

Los Angeles was up 33 less than six minutes into the third. Much like the Wolves other game against the Clippers here in December, this one entered garbage time early.

The Clippers hit another 5 of 10 from three-point range in the third. The Wolves were just 5 of 22 overall. That spelled out how the night went.