Preview: Wolves vs. Clippers
MINNEAPOLIS — The Los Angeles Clippers will be looking to extend the best start in franchise history when they travel for the second game of a back-to-back in Minnesota on Saturday night.
The Timberwolves are just hoping to build some momentum in this young season.
Los Angeles survived a 110-108 victory in Oklahoma City on Friday night, pushing their record to an NBA-best 8-1. In the process, the Clippers posted a win against the only team to beat them this season.
"This is one of those games that you can lose your trust in," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said after the contest. "(Andre) Roberson was making threes, (Damontis) Sabonis was making threes and we’re telling our guys to stay and clog the paint. And they are looking at me, like, ‘Why?’ We did it and it worked out for us. This is one of those games that you could have lost trust easily in what we were doing and we didn’t.
"At the end of the day, we won the game, so I think it actually probably gives me more equity to try more stuff."
The Clippers are building plenty of equity this season. Los Angeles has won five games in a row, including road games at Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
Minnesota enters the season with high hopes with new coach Tom Thibodeau after more than a decade of losing. But the young squad is still looking to find its rhythm, particularly on the defensive end.
Timberwolves’ opponents are shooting .469 from the field this year, the second-highest mark in the NBA. Minnesota has allowed 104.0 points per game. Establishing a defensive presence was a big part of Thibodeau’s arrival.
The Timberwolves (2-5) allowed 107 points on the road to Orlando in their last game, but managed a 123-107 victory to snap a three-game losing streak.
"There is a small difference between winning and losing," Thibodeau said after Wednesday night’s game. "You take a hard look at the mental mistakes. The biggest thing is eliminating all of the ways you beat yourself first."
A possible return from point guard Ricky Rubio could help fix the defensive inefficiencies. Rubio has missed the last five games with a sprained right elbow, but he returned to practice Friday. If he feels good after the workout, Rubio could return this weekend as Minnesota plays a home back-to-back.
"As long as he feels pretty good tomorrow," Thibodeau said Friday. "Just the way he can push the ball, his decision-making, team defense, he’s all over the place."
Defense hasn’t been an issue for Los Angeles. Returning nearly the same squad as last season, the Clippers allow a league-low 90.4 points per game.
The Clippers had won three games in a row by more than 20 points before Friday’s two-point victory. The game came down to the end, only assured when Russell Westbrook’s 3-pointer missed the mark in the final seconds.
"Yeah, a big-time trust game for us," Chris Paul said after the game.