The Minnesota Timberwolves have an opportunity extend the recent woes of the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday in Minneapolis.
Los Angeles dropped its fourth straight game in the first leg of a back-to-back on Thursday, falling 122-91 to the host Denver Nuggets. The 31-point margin of defeat was the Clippers’ worst of the season.
An 11-of-41 shooting performance (26.8 percent) in the first half doomed Los Angeles against the Nuggets. The Clippers trailed by 38 points before intermission and by as many 43 points in the second half.
If Los Angeles had a positive to take from the blowout loss, it was that the early deficit allowed coach Tyronn Lue to play the starters limited minutes. None exceeded 18:17, and stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both sat out the entire second half.
“The back-to-back was pretty important, but (the starters) didn’t have it tonight,” Lue said during his postgame press conference in reference to the starting five’s limited action. “So, I just thought we’d give our young guys a chance to play hard and compete, give them a little bit of experience, not knowing who’s going to play (Friday).”
Leonard has been limited since returning to the lineup on Dec. 5 after recovering from an ankle injury. He has yet to play both games of a back-to-back set.
Leonard sat out the Clippers’ Monday loss to the visiting Miami Heat before returning to action in Denver.
The ongoing skid matches Los Angeles’ longest of the season. Prior to the current swoon, the Clippers won 7 of 9, a run that included a 99-88 home victory over Minnesota on Dec. 14. The Timberwolves posted their lowest point total of the season in that contest.
Minnesota comes into the Friday matchup having won two in a row immediately after a six-game losing streak. The Timberwolves downed the visiting Nuggets 124-111 on Monday, then produced another home victory on Wednesday, 113-106 over the Portland Trail Blazers.
Anthony Edwards went for 32 points vs. Portland, his 10th consecutive game scoring at least 23 points and his fifth of at least 30 in that stretch. He has posted at least 29 points in each of his last four games.
“The young dude listens,” teammate Austin Rivers said of Edwards. “That’s the most impressive thing about Ant since I’ve been here. Usually a guy like that, it’s hard to talk to sometimes just because they got everything. But he doesn’t act like that. He just continually wants to get better.”
Edwards, a third-year player, is averaging career bests across the board with 24.2 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.4 assists and 1.7 steals per game.
Minnesota needs all the production it can get from its statistical leader with another of the players central to last year’s postseason run, Karl-Anthony Towns, still sidelined due to a calf injury.
Towns hasn’t played since Nov. 28, and the timeline for his return is uncertain.
His absence is part of a roster that Timberwolves coach Chris Finch told reporters last weekend that he planned to “shuffle it up totally.”
That included playing Taurean Prince — out of the lineup since late November due to a shoulder injury — for 21 minutes on Wednesday. Prince responded with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting from the floor.
–Field Level Media