The Los Angeles Clippers play the Minnesota Timberwolves tonight and the Oklahoma City Thunder tomorrow night in a road back-to-back. Which of these two games is the bigger one? It would be easy to say the Thunder is the big one. After all, OKC is a contender for the top seed in the Western Conference and a win over them would be huge. I don’t disagree with that. In fact, if you told me the Clippers will split these two games and I could pick which one will be the win, I’d pick the Oklahoma City game just for that reason.
But the reality is we don’t know if the Clippers will split. So the game tonight is the one they need and here is why. Remember the first back-to-back this season when the Clippers went to Florida to take on the Orlando Magic on a Wednesday and the Miami Heat on Thursday? Remember that I wrote before that trip that the game they needed to get was the Magic game? I said that the Magic game would be easy to overlook with the Heat game the next night, and that the tendency would be to come out flat against Orlando. I said that Doc Rivers needs to tell his team that they cannot let Miami beat them twice.
But, apparently they didn’t read my article because that is exactly what happened. They were flat against the Magic. Chris Paul and J. J. Redick both could not buy an outside shot. They were down by15 at the half. The Clippers then came all the way back and took a two-point lead into the fourth quarter. But as so often happens, they expended so much energy in the come back that they ran out of gas in the fourth and lost 96-90. Then the next night they fought the two-time defending champs hard all night, but in the end the Heat and Lebron James and Dwayne Wade were just too much. So in essence, the Heat beat the Clippers twice.
The Clippers need to learn from that and not let OKC beat them twice. Come out firing on all cylinders against the Wolves. This game is a game the Clippers need to get. Here is why.
The Clippers are coming off their first home loss of the season on Monday against the Memphis Grizzlies. So they are now a game back in the Pacific Division. A loss to the Wolves tonight and another to the Thunder tomorrow and that 7-3 start that looked pretty good is now a pretty bad 7-6 start. Let’s not forget that there is a seven game road trip just around the corner.
Before this, the Clippers will have four of five at home though. They get the Sacramento Kings at home on Saturday, the Chicago Bulls on Monday, the New York Knicks on next Wednesday, then a road game at the Kings a week from Friday and a home game against the tough Indiana Pacers on a week from Sunday before the seven game trip starts.
So if they get the T-Wolves tonight and the Kings on Saturday, the worst they will be is 9-5. Get a split between the Bulls and Knicks and then another between the Kings and Pacers and the worst they are is 11-7 going into the seven game trip. The Clippers could even get one of the two between the Bulls and Pacers and then were are looking at 12-6. Not bad.
But lose tonight, we are looking at a possible 8-6 going into the Bulls and Knicks. So then if they split those two and then split the Kings and Pacers, now it is 10-8 going into a seven game trip. A 3-4 trip and the Clippers come back 13-12.
Now would this be a disaster? No. But with the San Antonio Spurs off to a 9-1 start, the Thunder at 7-3 and the Houston Rockets at 8-4, you do not want to linger around the .500 mark if you have designs on hosting playoff series in the spring. So get this game tonight.