Minnesota Timberwolves at Los Angeles Clippers (-9.5, 206 o/u)
Injuries are finally starting to catch up to the Los Angeles Clippers (40-23, 23-9 home). The Clippers did better than most predicted after star forward Blake Griffin was sidelined with an elbow injury, going 7-3 in the first ten without their leading scorer. However, small forward Jamal Crawford has also been on the shelf for the last two games and the shorthanded team has dropped both outings.
The loss of Griffin and Crawford is most noticeable on offense; L.A. averages over 106 PPG on the season (second-highest in the league) but have failed to hit 100 in the last two.
Head coach Doc Rivers knows his team still has the potential to bang with the NBA’s best, even shorthanded. “We’ve proven we can play with teams with Jamal and Blake out,” Rivers said. “What we haven’t done is won with them out yet.”
Things may be turning from bad to worse for the Clippers, though, as point guard Chris Paul is suffering from a left knee injury.
While Paul did play Sunday, scoring 14 points and adding 11 assists in a 106-98 loss at Golden State, Rivers may rest “CP3” tonight when the Clippers host the Minnesota Timberwolves (14-47, 5-23 away).
The loss of Paul would be devastating to the Clippers. The point guard has upped his game during Griffin’s absence, scoring 21.8 PPG and adding 12.4 APG.
If Paul can’t go, look for Rivers to turn to his son, Austin, as well as the newly signed Nate Robinson against the Timberwolves, who, luckily for the Clippers, are horrific on defense.
Minnesota is giving up 105.6 PPG – including averaging 113.3 points against in its last seven contests against the Clippers.
However, the Timberwolves overcame their porous defense on the weekend, picking up a surprise 121-113 against Portland. Kevin Martin had 29 points for Minny, while Gary Neal scored 27 points coming off the bench.
“[Coach Flip Saunders has] been giving me minutes and when I’m in he’s been calling plays and doing things to keep me involved,” Neal said. “That’s big as a shooter.”
The win snapped a four-game losing streak for the T-Wolves, who remain in last place in the Western Conference.
Lately, Minnesota’s Ricky Rubio has been playing very selfless ball, dishing out 11.2 APG in the last five (with five straight double-doubles), while Rookie of the Year front-runner Andrew Wiggins has averaged 20.6 PPG during a seven-game stretch.
Even though Minnesota is 13-13 ATS as an away dog this season, the Timberwolves terrible defense means the Clippers laying the points (-9.5) is the play.
(Photo credit: Joe Bielawa (Flickr: DSC_0301-MN v DET) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)