The LA Clippers granted no mercy in Minnesota yesterday as they brought a crushing defeat to the Timberwolves in the penultimate fixture of a six-game road trip.
In a drastically different scene from that of their 28-point loss to Milwaukee earlier in the trip, the Clippers used their deadly duo of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard to combine for 88 points and lead their offence in sharp-shooting style. George hit a game-high 46 points, adding seven assists, five rebounds and two steals on 17-of-31 from the field, whilst Leonard slammed down 42 points, with 11 rebounds and two assists going 10-of-24.
The Kawhi-PG show lit up Minneapolis’ Target Center as they played without sixth man Lou Williams, who was out with a calf injury and withstood a late fourth-quarter rally by the Wolves. But it was they furious performance on the wings which sent the opposition home with nightmares, it’s difficult to tackle each of them individually, put them together and you really have a problem. In the first half alone, they accounted for 54 of LA’s 65 points.
Leonard set his own career-highs in free throws, going 19-for-19 from the charity stripe, and first-half points with 31 by the interval. With Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet and JaMychal Green also out, the weight rested heavy on the pair’s shoulders, but Kawhi underestimated the explosivity of their game as both rose to the challenge and then some.
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But what happened to the Timberwolves? Well, they have one title going for them, the worst defensive team in the league at 123.5 and we can add some dire perimeter shooting to that list too. Unfortunately, rookie Jarett Culver continues to struggle and arguably experienced the worst performance last night going 0-for-5 from the floor and added to the defensive breakdown, failing to effectively guard the Clipper’s backcourt.
Karl-Anthony Towns was by far the leading force behind Minnesota with a season-high 39 points and a game-high 12 rebounds, although he did experience foul trouble mid-game which uncoincidentally coincided with the Wolves deficit.
For some perspective, Leonard and George combined for 28 points in the first quarter as the Wolves only hit 29 as a collective. Leonard’s 31 points at half-time combined with PG’s 23 totalled 54 whilst Minnesota only achieved 56 in total. LA outshot Minnesota in all respects with the biggest margin coming from beyond the arc with 44% compared to 24.4%.
The Clippers led by as much as 100-73 in the fourth, but Minnesota experienced a late run to cut the deficit to 121-117 with 28.7 seconds remaining – every point mattered. LA held off the comeback to walk onto their next game in Chicago with a victory as the Wolves nurse their seventh straight loss.