The Los Angeles Clippers started their long, eight game road trip last at the Target Center in Minneapolis against the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Clippers and the Timberwolves had played twice this season already, winning both contests. Their first meeting was on Nov. 28th at Staples Center (101-95) and the other was on Jan. 17th at Target Center (90-77).
The Timberwolves, a team wracked by injuries and welcoming back their coach (who was helping deal with his ailing wife), had lost 4 straight games, so it would be no surprise they were going to play hard to right their ship. The Clippers, on the other hand, were looking to extend their winning streak to two games after winning against Portland on Sunday. The Clippers were coming in without Chris Paul for the 5th straight game due to a bruised knee cap. I was hoping Chauncey Billups was going to come back and play, but he was scratched yet again due to tendinitis in his left foot. Eric Bledsoe was once again inserted into the starting lineup and had a solid game with 10 points, 10 assists, and 6 steals.
As for the game, it was an ugly affair throughout. The Clippers ended the first quarter only being down by 2 points (23-25), led mainly by Blake Griffin’s strong play (10 points in the 1st quarter, 26 for the game to go along with 13 rebounds). With 8:26 left in the second quarter, Matt Barnes was assessed two flagrant fouls for shoving Greg Stiemsma from the Timberwolves in the neck and was automatically ejected from the game. Just one minute later, Stiemsma got a flagrant 1 for pushing Grant Hill while Hill was trying to get a rebound in mid-air. Hill fell to the ground and teammates Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf ran to Hill’s defense and pushed Stiemsma which earned THEM both technical fouls! It seemed like I was watching UFC fight and not a basketball game and the Clippers radio man, Isaak Lowenkron, dubbed us “Thug City.” I didn’t expect this to be such a physical game, BUT it was good to see the Clippers not back down and that they are not a team who can be intimidated. They call Call Caron Butler “Tuff Juice” for a reason.
Despite all the fouls, technical fouls, three second violations, pushing and shoving, the Clippers re-focused and came out with a 96-90 win to kick off their “Grammy trip” right. They have now won three out of three games against the Timberwolves, with their final meeting at Staples Center on April 10th. Up next, the Toronto Raptors, who are welcoming Rudy Gay (freshly acquired in a trade with Memphis) to their lineup, on Friday.
Three Clippers players had double doubles: DeAndre Jordan had 16 points and 12 rebounds, Griffin with 26 points 13 rebounds and Eric Bledsoe with 10 points and a season high of 10 assists. It was good to see Jordan contribute and have such a great game. I can’t forget to mention Jamal Crawford and Butler contributed big time with a combined score of 36 points. Blake Griffin hit a huge acrobatic layup – with the and-1 – to essentially put the game out of reach:
With one road game out of the way, the Clippers have seven more to go. They are off to a good start to their road trip. Their next game is at Air Canada Centre in Toronto against the Toronto Raptors on Friday at 4pm.