Clippers Lose To Minnesota

April 8, 2009

In a game between two lottery-bound teams with visions of Blake Griffin, the depleted Minnesota Timberwolves defeated the injury-riddled Clippers 87-77, Tuesday night at the Staples Center.

Although both teams were missing three of their regular starters, the Minnesota frontline still was able to exploit the undersized Clips down low by dominating on the boards. Because of that size disadvantage, an impressive 28-point performance by Clippers' Rookie of the Year candidate Eric Gordon went to waste. Gordon made 10 out of 17 shots for the game, including 5 of 8 from three-point land.

Coach Mike Dunleavy sent out the Clippers thirty-second different starting lineup this season, as Marcus Camby, Chris Kaman, Al Thornton, and the recently-suspended Zach Randolph all were missing in action. The situation got even worse when rookie center DeAndre Jordan aggravated an Achilles injury, leaving Los Angeles even more thin upfront. The loss of Jordan forced journeyman Brian Skinner into extended second half action, as he was the only remaining active big body left on the Clippers' roster. To his credit, Skinner played admirably by tallying 16 points and 14 rebounds.

Meanwhile, Minnesota's starting five included role players Brian Cardinal and Kevin Ollie, both solid veterans capable of producing in four-minute increments, but neither man likely to make coach Kevin McHale's list of desired starters at their respective positions.

Despite such circumstances, McHale received good production from his frontline. Forward Ryan Gomes was excellent with 24 points and 13 boards on the night. Former Los Angeles Fairfax High product Craig Smith also turned in a solid performance with 16 points and 7 boards. And finally, rookie bruiser and former UCLA standout Kevin Love posted another double-double, pulling down 15 rebounds to go along with his 13 points. Some of Love's best moments occurred in the third quarter, as he scored Minnesota's first seven points in that period.

Minnesota enjoyed a whopping 62-34 advantage on the boards, as three of their starters grabbed 10 or more rebounds. That work on the glass provided the T'Wolves with numerous second-chance scoring opportunities on offense, as Minnesota grabbed 20 offensive rebounds.

The rebounding differential also was instrumental in allowing Minnesota to get out and run against the Clippers' lackadaisical transition defense. In particular, Love ignited the Wolves' running game on several occasions, securing defensive rebounds in traffic and then snapping his trademark crisp outlet passes to the Minnesota guards for easy fast-break opportunities.

Without the availability of his big men, Dunleavy employed a guard-oriented lineup for much of the game. As a result, many Clippers, such as Fred Jones and Steve Novak, were forced to play out of their natural positions.

The short-handed Clippers struggled offensively, shooting a mere 36% for the game. Baron Davis was the only Clippers starter other than Gordon to score in double figures, as he finished with 12 points on 5-16 shooting.

The victory gave Minnesota its twelfth road win, and improved their overall record to 23-55. The Clippers fell to 18-60, and will face Sacramento at home on Friday.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

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