Suddenly feeling a whole lot better about the road ahead, the Los Angeles Clippers will return home from an East Coast road trip Monday to face the Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Clippers have lost six of their last nine games, but two of those victories came at Boston and Brooklyn last week. Los Angeles picked up a 120-116 victory over the Nets in a game in which they were without Paul George (elbow) and head coach Tyronn Lue (COVID-19 protocol).
The Clippers also had a number of key players in protocol, including Luke Kennard, Ivica Zubac and energetic rookie Brandon Boston Jr. Nicolas Batum and Isaiah Hartenstein both were out with ankle injuries.
Eric Bledsoe led the Clippers with a season-high 27 points, and the backcourt production continued with 19 points from Reggie Jackson. Terance Mann also had 19 points, including a key 3-pointer with 23.5 seconds remaining to put the Clippers up 117-113.
Jackson was playing in his second game since returning from COVID-19 protocol.
“It feels good to have the ball in your hands a little bit more, but it’s good to have Reg back too,” said Bledsoe, who was moved to the second unit last month. “You just gotta keep fighting, keep pushing. Scratch and claw and try to get these wins so we can make the playoffs.”
Lue reportedly remains stuck in Canada after testing positive there before the Clippers played the Toronto Raptors on Friday. Brian Shaw was Los Angeles’ acting coach the last two games.
“(I) told them just compete, play hard and have fun,” Shaw said after the victory over the Nets. “If the ball swings your way and it is in the rhythm of the offense, take the shots that were there, and I thought they did that.”
The Wolves will be playing their second game at Los Angeles in two nights after a disappointing 108-103 defeat to the Lakers on Sunday.
Naz Reid scored a season-high 23 points for Minnesota and added 11 rebounds, but he did not score in the fourth quarter. Jaylen Nowell had 17 points, more than 10 over his season average and his second highest scoring total of the season.
Two of the top three leading scorers were out for the Wolves with Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell in COVID-19 protocol.
“We’re not here solely just to develop talent,” Wolves head coach Chris Finch said. “We’re trying to win these games. We just have to be better. Tonight, I thought we just beat ourselves. (The Lakers) played a great game, they made some big shots, but we beat ourselves with the turnovers and the fouling.”
The Wolves were outscored 30-23 in the final period and lost despite a massive 56-28 rebounding advantage over the Lakers. Minnesota had a 20-4 advantage on the offensive boards. But there were 24 turnovers, including eight from Anthony Edwards.
The Clippers are 22nd in rebounding with 43.8 per game, and it figures to be another night when the Wolves can dominate on the boards.
“We just have to try and find some consistent efforts,” Finch said. “We can’t have that type of inconsistency no matter where you are in the (player) rotation. That’s our biggest challenge right now.”
–Field Level Media