Following an overly active weekend they would like to put behind them, the Los Angeles Clippers move forward Tuesday with a visit from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
After coming out on the losing end of NBA history Friday and enduring a scare on a team flight Saturday, the Clippers took the top team in the Western Conference to the wire Sunday, only to experience the sting of defeat again.
The drama began Friday, during Russell Westbrook’s debut, when the Clippers failed to protect a 14-point lead with 4:25 remaining and lost a 176-175 decision in double overtime to the Sacramento Kings in a game that was more pinball than basketball. It was the second-highest scoring game in NBA history.
The Clippers may have a problem
In a complete juxtaposition to his personal performance in those Bubble times, Marcus Morris Sr. had a truly horrible night in Denver. He wasn’t the reason the team lost, in fact he helped them space the floor in the fourth to ensure they even had a chance, but his impact beyond that has severely dwindled over the course of this season.
As with last night’s familiar-faced opponent Reggie Jackson, Mook has contributed so much to this organization, stepping up to carry the scoring burden when the stars have been sidelined. However, it was the former’s time to move on and it wouldn’t be a surprise if the latter found himself out of the rotation as we edge closer to the postseason, because it’s tough to watch him right now.
The Clippers showed they can give the Nuggets a worthy test, getting 33 points from Kawhi Leonard, 23 from Paul George and 17 from Westbrook — who also added four assists and five steals in 25 minutes of his second game with the team.
Mason Plumlee had 10 rebounds in 27 minutes as he started in place of center Ivica Zubac, who has missed the last two games with a right calf strain.
“The biggest thing for me is just the way we started,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said. “You can’t get down 15, 16 points to a good team like this and then you have to fight and claw back. But overall, I liked our grind and our grit. I thought Russ did a good job. I should have probably played him more.”
The Timberwolves enter on a three-game losing streak, the most recent of which was a 109-104 setback at Golden State on Sunday. Naz Reid scored a career-high 30 points, while Anthony Edwards was held to 12 on 5-of-19 shooting (26.3 percent). Edwards averages a team-best 24.7 points per game.
“I thought, if we keep playing like that, we’ll be fine,” Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch said. “We responded to everything and if there was another two minutes in the game, or another minute in the game, maybe we finish on top.”
Minnesota continues to be without Karl-Anthony Towns (calf), while Rudy Gobert (13.4 points, 11.6 rebounds per game) missed Sunday’s game with an illness. Towns hasn’t played since late November.
Minnesota is entering its second game of a four-game stretch in California before moving into a run where it plays eight consecutive games against Eastern Conference teams that includes matchups against the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics.
But they’ve got no Kawhi qualms
Speaking of carrying, Kawhi Leonard is hitting a different plane at the moment. That period in the fourth quarter where he and Jokic were trading buckets was one of those truly great spells of basketball that you just have to sit and marvel at. Crazy then that it absolutely isn’t the first time this season that I’ve just sat and marveled at what the Clippers’ leading light has been producing.
It was once again a super-efficient outing for Leonard, who scored 33 points on 12-for-19 from the field, including 3-for-4 from deep. While he was a better defender during his time with both the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors, he honestly looks as good offensively as he ever has right now and that should be a warning to every other team in the league.
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