Skip to main content

Clippers-Timberwolves Preview

  • Author:
  • Publish date:

Chris Paul is pouncing on every possible opportunity for some extra rest, no matter how boldly presumptuous the reasons.

The bench has been comforting at the end of blowouts, and taking himself out of consideration for the Olympics aligns with his plan for the Los Angeles Clippers to make a deep postseason run.

The exuberant Minnesota Timberwolves hope to put a wrinkle in that process at home Wednesday night, just as they did in a surprising victory at Staples Center last month.

Paul's 33.1 minutes per game would be a career low in his 11th season, and coach Doc Rivers hopes to play him even less as the regular season winds down. He played about 26 minutes in each game of a back-to-back set against Denver and Boston and finished with 13 points and 14 assists in Monday's 114-90 rout of the Celtics.

The Clippers (44-24) have won three in a row while opening a 5 1/2-game lead on Memphis for the Western Conference's fourth seed and home-court advantage in the first round. Even though Paul isn't playing as many minutes as in previous years, he said Tuesday that he "could use the time" this summer to recover rather than play for Team USA in Rio.

''It's great. It's amazing,'' Paul said. ''Not only do we get a chance to rest, it's all about everybody getting into a rhythm and a flow. We have to make sure everybody has that as we get ready to play in the playoffs.''

Los Angeles will get another body back when Blake Griffin is eligible to return from suspension Sunday against Washington. Rivers, though, said Paul Pierce will "be out for a little bit" after leaving in the second quarter against Boston with ankle and knee injuries.

Scroll to Continue

SI Recommends

Rivers is hoping to solidify playoff rotations, but he's more excited with how well the Clippers have defended lately. They've allowed averages of 91.3 points and 38.0 percent shooting in the past three games after opponents shot 49.0 percent and scored 110.7 per game over the previous six.

"Our defense had taken a vacation, but the last three games it's been off the charts - active hands, deflections, creating turnovers," Rivers said. "When we defend like that, we're pretty good."

Minnesota (25-49) didn't have much trouble solving the Clippers on Feb. 3. Andrew Wiggins scored 31 points and Karl-Anthony Towns added 17 as the Timberwolves shot 50.6 percent in a 108-102 victory that snapped a 14-game losing streak in the series.

They hit that same percentage in Monday's 121-116 victory over Phoenix and have shot at least that well in each of their three victories over the last four games. Wiggins had 32 points while hitting 17 of 21 free throws, and Towns finished with 27 and 10 rebounds.

''It's a process, and this can lead into next year,'' Wiggins said. ''We don't want to stop. We play hard for a reason. We're building something here.''

Interim coach Sam Mitchell wasn't happy following the latest victory, though. The Wolves let a 20-point lead slip away and fell behind with less than three minutes left.

"I just think when we got up, there's a natural tendency to relax. We keep harping on these things," Mitchell said. "I don't like yelling at our guys, but it's the same things every night that you just have to keep drilling home until the light bulb comes on."

The Clippers have won seven straight meetings in Minnesota, but four of the last five have been decided by six points or fewer.