Thursday, March 1, 2012

Minnesota Timberwolves 109 at Los Angeles Clippers 97 - February 28, 2012

After watching Pepperdine upset USC in NCAA baseball, I drove the 35 miles to downtown LA to check out the suddenly popular Clippers hosting the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first game after the NBA All-Star break.

Staples Center

I've discussed the Staples Center here before, so won't bother with any more details. Street parking around the arena is free from 6 pm, so no need to pay for parking if you get there a bit early. Olive Street, about 4 blocks away, had plenty of spots. Tickets are somewhat cheaper here than for the Lakers but that might change next year if Lob City continues to thrive. I was fortunate to find a center court seat eights rows from the floor at a reasonable price. Basketball is a much different game when you are sitting up close and can see the expressions on the players' faces and overhear some of the conversations.

I also noticed that the scoreboard here has small screens underneath for those in the first few rows who can't see the main board. I've never seen that before and it's a good addition.

The Game

The teams were wearing throwback uniforms from the ABA, so it was the Minnesota Muskies against the LA Stars. I love these retro nights as it makes for a change from seeing the same old uniforms every game.

LA got started quickly, storming out to an 18-8 lead behind 9 points from Blake Griffin (above). Minnesota fought back but Griffin was simply unstoppable, finishing the quarter with 18 points as the Clippers took a 31-22 lead.

Griffin was rested to start the second although he wasn't in foul trouble (that's him commiting a hard foul on Wesley Johnson above). Minnesota stayed with their bench to start the second and it paid off as rookie Derek Williams (2nd overall pick out of Arizona) and Michael Beasley helped get them within three at the half.

The teams traded baskets throughout the third quarter, but the Clippers could not gain a decisive advantage and they went to the fourth up 76-73. It was one of those games where you could sense the tide was turning as LA should have been up by much more.

Sure enough, Williams made a 3-point shot to start the stanza and tie the game and when Martell Webster added a lay-up a couple of minutes later, the Timberwolves had their first lead since the opening basket. The Clippers tied it at 80, but from there, their shooting touch deserted them while Williams and Beasley couldn't miss, leading Minnesota on a 24-7 run over six minutes that sealed the game.

Williams finished with a career-high 27 and became the first player in NBA history to shoot 90% FG (min 10 FGA) and 100% on 3s (min 4) & FT (min 5) in a game.

Beasley also finished with 27, perhaps showcasing his talents for a potential trade to the Lakers.

The Timberwolves' bench contributed 72 points, most in the NBA this season

Griffin led all scorers with 30, but spent a lot of time on the bench, which I found a bit odd given his strong start, although as this was the first game after the All-Star break, it might make some sense.

Not a bad game, it was good to see two up-and-coming teams go at it. The Clippers need to play more of a team game rather than relying on their alley-oops; fans want wins more than they want pretty plays. There were no signature Chris Paul-Griffin dunks, but there were two from Mo Williams to DeAndre Jordan. Still, dunks are only worth two points, better not to waste possessions trying to be fancy.


Billy Crystal was in the crowd after his Oscar-hosting gig, sitting courtside about 10 rows in front of me.

Next Up

Today is my last day in North America. My flight is at midnight though, so I have enough time to visit Cal State Fullerton to watch them host Loyola Marymount in NCAA baseball action. Check back this weekend for a recap as well as a summary of the trip.



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