Timberwolves-Clippers Preview

While the Los Angeles Clippers appear to be in solid position to
make the playoffs for the first time in six seasons, the Minnesota
Timberwolves are hoping they’re good enough to end an even longer
postseason drought.

The Timberwolves look for a second straight victory over the
Clippers when they begin a stretch of three games in three nights
Monday at Staples Center.

Minnesota (17-17) won for the fourth time in five games by
overcoming a late 16-point deficit to beat Utah 100-98 at home
Wednesday. With the victory, the Timberwolves matched their win
total from all of 2010-11, and entered the All-Star break 10th in
the Western Conference, one game out of the eighth and final
playoff spot.

“We’ll see if we can keep this thing going,” said coach Rick
Adelman, trying to guide the Timberwolves to their first playoff
appearance since 2003-04. “We’re going to have to be playing well,
and we’re going to have to have a lot of guys stepping up if we’re
going to maintain what we’re doing.”

Minnesota faces a tough challenge out of the break with three
road games in as many nights – the first two in Los Angeles. The
four-game, five-day trip ends in Portland on Saturday before the
Timberwolves open a four-game homestand against the Clippers next
Monday.

They snapped a four-game road skid against the Clippers (20-11)
with a 101-98 victory Jan. 20. Seldom-used forward Darko Milicic
had 22 points while All-Star Kevin Love added 17 with 14 rebounds
as Minnesota outscored Los Angeles 29-19 in the fourth quarter.

“It’s just a whole new feel for the team,” said Love, averaging
25.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. “Just giving ourselves a chance to
win at the end of games and then figuring out how to win.”

Love, who won the All-Star 3-point Shootout over the weekend,
has averaged 17.0 points and 12.5 boards in his last four road
games against the Clippers.

Second-year center Nikola Pekovic had eight points and two
rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench at Los Angeles last month, but
has averaged 17.2 points and 10.4 boards over his last 13 games –
11 as a starter.

Minnesota, however, could have a tougher time beating Los
Angeles with Chris Paul and Caron Butler in the lineup. Injuries
kept both off the floor in the first meeting.

“Obviously, they were a different team because they didn’t have
Chris or Caron,” Love said. “For us to (win), especially in L.A.,
it’s a big deal. The Clippers are a good team.”

Paul had a season-36 points with nine assists and Blake Griffin
added 27 points and 12 rebounds as Los Angeles avoided a third
consecutive defeat with a 103-95 home win over Denver on Wednesday.
It was a much-needed victory for the Clippers, who are third in the
West and 1 1/2 games ahead of the rival Lakers atop in the Pacific
Division.

The Clippers last made the playoffs in 2005-06.

“After the break, that’s when it gets serious” said Paul,
averaging 27.0 points – nearly eight above his season average –
over his last three contests. “Definitely a lot of room for
improvement. Obviously we haven’t peaked yet and we can keep
getting better.”

Paul is averaging 21.1 points and 10.5 assists in 17 career
games versus Minnesota. Griffin has posted 25.4 points and 10.6
rebounds per game in five meetings with the Timberwolves.