The Clippers have played some of their most impressive basketball of the season over the past two games, winning against Eastern Conference playoff teams on the road despite being down a number of key players.
That daunting task continues Friday in Minnesota, as LA adds a new name to its injury report: Lou Williams.
Williams (calf) joins Landry Shamet (ankle), Patrick Beverley (concussion), and JaMychal Green (tailbone contusion) among the Clippers walking wounded against the Timberwolves. Rodney McGruder is finally set to return from a hamstring strain, though Doc Rivers cautioned that his minutes will be limited.
LA's starting lineup is mostly intact, though Terance Mann or Derrick Walton Jr. will have to replace Beverley. The bench is where the Clippers are feeling the most strain, not just in the volume of players, but in the shot creation that Williams provides.
As a result, it will probably make the most sense for the Clippers to stagger Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as much as possible. Obviously, the two stars will start the game together, and afterwards, at least one of them should be on the floor at all times. The Clippers don't really have a true point guard, but they're missing their two best facsimiles in Williams and Beverley, so George and Leonard will have to run the offense in their minutes.
Here's a rough estimate of what the Clippers' minutes could look like tonight.
Derrick Walton Jr.
A couple things to note:
- There is no indication whether Mann or Walton will start in Beverley's place, so their minutes are exactly even. Mann has gotten the spot start in previous games, but he lost minutes to Walton earlier in this road trip. Neither player should be the primary ball handler in their minutes, but Walton might make more sense with the reserves given the creation already in the starting lineup.
- The Clippers finally used Ivica Zubac and Montrezl Harrell together against Indiana, but it's unlikely they return to that well, which is why their minutes add up to only 48. The Pacers play two centers at almost times, while the Wolves start Karl Anthony-Towns at the five, a stretch big who will be a tough cover for either Zubac or Harrell.
- Without Lou, LA will probably need some Iso Trez, so it's quite possible that his minutes total exceeds this projection.
- These were the most minutes I felt comfortable allotting to Walton, Mann, and Jerome Robinson, and that was while feeling generous. You may notice that the Clippers are still six minutes short of a full 48-minute game. Ideally, someone pops and earns those extra minutes, or the Clippers may turn to Mfiondu Kabengele, who is making the trip.
- Leonard could be stretched a little longer, given that he is unlikely to play Saturday on the second night of the back-to-back in Chicago.
Speaking of that back-to-back, the Clippers will finish their road trip having played six games in nine days, including two back-to-backs. The turnaround between tonight's clash at 8:30 p.m. local time and tomorrow's at 7:00 p.m. is particularly onerous, especially considering that a nationally-televised matchup in Minnesota will take longer than most games.
The Clippers received some pushback around the league for allowing Leonard to sit on nationally-televised games, and Rivers told the Los Angeles Times that he doesn't think it's fair for his team to be criticized for injury management when the schedule is so punishing.
The Clippers have already secured at least a split on this road trip, but they want more. Given their personnel situation, tonight should be the perfect embodiment of Grit over Glam.