LOS ANGELES, CA-The balanced offense the Los Angeles Clippers showed against a star-studded Minnesota Timberwolves team is the new way of doing things for the ballclub. The Clippers have become an incredibly efficient scoring team this season without all the baggage and bells and whistles that comes sometimes from super high-profile players. The Clippers’ 120-109 win at Staples Center Monday before a near-sellout crowd has to be the team’s most satisfying win to date.
“Just a team win. I thought there were so many little contributions,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I thought Mike Scott was huge, he made a huge three for us and he did the same thing in the first half. I thought that group in the first half with Milos [Teodosic] and Jerome [Robinson] opened up the lead for us. In the fourth, I thought Pat [Beverley] defensively just alone was phenomenal. It’s funny, we had a hot guy in Tobias [Harris], and we didn’t even bring him back in until five minutes to go [in the game] because the group that was on the floor was increasing the lead. It just says a lot about this team. This team likes to play together, and they understand that if one guy in our group is going, they are fine with waiting, and that is what we are doing.”
Sure, the Clippers put up 120 points to win, but this victory came with exceptional play on the defensive side. The Clippers held the Timberwolves to 47 percent shooting for the game. Los Angeles was able to keep in check Minnesota’s Big Three of Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler, and Karl Anthony Towns to less than 50 percent shooting from the field as well. The Clippers also outrebounded the Timberwolves (43-38) and lit it up from long distance, going 14 of 31 from three-point range.
“Well, I think the rebounding was a problem again, we didn’t cover the three-point line,” Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau said. “I thought they came up with crucial plays in the fourth quarter. The times we did defend well, if you give a team two or three cracks at it, they made us pay; they made us pay with the threes.”
Rose, who put up 50 points in a Timberwolves’ win against the Utah Jazz, managed to connect on eight of his 20 shots for a team-high 21 points. Butler could get off only 13 shots on the evening, making just six of those attempts from the field for his 20 points in 39 minutes of game action. Anthony Towns was a little better, but not much, scoring 20 points on eight makes from the field.
“We are versatile, we have a bunch of scorers on the team,” Rose said. “We just have to learn how to utilize everyone and once we get the lead just play smart.”
After Minnesota jumped out to a first-quarter edge, the Clippers outscored the Timberwolves the last three periods and were looking like they might coast to an easy home win. But Butler, who did virtually nothing in the first three quarters of action, took over scoring duties for Minnesota, scoring 16 of his 20 points in the period to put a scare into the Clippers. Lou Williams (seven points), Montrezl Harrell (seven points) and Danilo Gallinari (nine points) were able to counter Buttler’s explosive period.
Tobias Harris, who scored 17 of his 22 points for the Clippers in the first half, said the team’s versatility makes it difficult for opponents to just focus and lock on only one player.
“It says we have different options,” Harris said. “At times, in the fourth quarter, there was a lot of times where I was used as the guy to space the floor and create actions. That’s how we fueled off each other. We have different guys that can make plays and any given night could be somebody else’s night. I think that’s the beauty of our team, is the depth of it, and the different personnel we can put out there.”