Tonight was a good night in Staples Center. The home team defeated the visiting team with a score of 101-95. If I was talking about the Los Angeles Lakers, this victory would have gotten all attendees (which included me tonight) free tacos. But alas, it was a Los Angeles Clippers game, and so all I got were dunks at a third of the ticket price. Lots and lots of dunks. But I digress…
Perhaps it was because they had lost 4-straight games. Perhaps it was because I was personally in attendance (wink, wink). Perhaps it was because Chauncey Billups is back after nine long months of being sidelined. Whatever it was that ignited the passion back into the Clippers tonight in their victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, all I can say is…finally.
But it wasn’t easy. The Timberwolves came out strong, shooting 50% from the field, hitting 75% of their 3-pointers in the first quarter. Their strong down-low game with both Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic also gave the Clippers a hard time, Love with 19 points and 12 rebounds and Pekovic with 11 points and 10 rebounds. What’s more, the Clippers had a particularly difficult time on the boards. The Timberwolves dominated, out-rebounding the Clippers 52-35.
But in the second quarter, something magical happened. There was an energy in the Clippers that had been absent recently, and it came from the “second team.” They were excited. They were moving well. They were playing like the team that we had seen at the beginning of the season, the team that we know they can be. They found their rhythm, and that rhythm allowed them to force 20 turnovers on defense and score 54 of their points in the paint on offense.
For the Clippers, Chris Paul led the team with 23 points and 11 assists. Blake Griffin followed with 18 points and 6 rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan contributed 15 points and 6 rebounds.
For the Timberwolves, Alexey Shved put up 17 points, and Luke Ridnour had 13 points and 7 assists.
With tonight’s win, the Clippers advance to 9-6 and the Timberwolves drop to 6-8. And although they were able to pull ahead and win tonight, it wasn’t by much. After setting a new franchise record for number of 3-pointers in a single game on Monday, the Clippers shot a dismal 4 for 19 from the 3-point line tonight. The volatility of their 3-point shooting and defensive struggles are still issues that cannot go unresolved. We’ll see if Mr. Big Shot and the Clippers can sustain the passion that they showed tonight for their game on Saturday against the Sacramento Kings.