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Struggling Clippers face struggling T-wolves again
LOS ANGELES -- Three days after clashing in the Twin Cities, the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Los Angeles Clippers will stage a Wednesday night rematch on the West Coast.
About all that can be gleaned from the Timberwolves' 112-106 victory on Sunday is that the team from the Midwest might be the better of the two struggling squads, but only barely.
Minnesota (14-11) grabbed the victory, but only after losing five of its previous eight contests. And it wasn't as if the win got the Timberwolves back on track because they turned around and lost 95-92 to Memphis on Monday. The Grizzlies ended an 11-game losing streak.
Four of the last five Minnesota defeats have come against teams with losing records, as Tom Thibodeau's squad hardly looks like the team that opened the year with a 10-5 record. Defense was a staple of Thibodeau teams in Chicago, but the Timberwolves are not getting much of it lately.
"You don't guard, you try to outscore the opponent, a lot of times it's not going to work," Minnesota's Jimmy Butler said, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Sometimes it does. But a lot of times it doesn't."
Meanwhile, the Clippers (8-14) have been crushed by injuries in the early going. They are currently missing four of the five players who were in the starting lineup during an opening-night victory over the Los Angeles Lakers back in October.
Only DeAndre Jordan has avoided getting hurt, with the inconsistent starting lineup having an effect on his productivity. Jordan is grabbing 13.9 rebounds per game but is scoring just 10.4 points per contest, his lowest total since the 2013-14 season. He generally has had less of an impact on offense without consistent lob feeds from the guard position.
Jordan is also under 70 percent shooting from the field for the first time since that same 2013-14 season, but his 68.8 percent mark still leads the NBA.
In a bit of positive injury news for the Clippers, forward Danilo Gallinari could be back for the Wednesday game after missing the past 13 games with a strained hip. Guard Milos Teodosic, who has not played since the home opener way back in October, practiced this week but is out for Wednesday due to plantar fasciitis issues. He could return as early as Saturday.
Guard Patrick Beverley and forward Blake Griffin will not be back any time soon. Beverley (knee surgery) is done for the season, and Griffin figures to be out at least until the end of January with a sprained knee.
The Clippers have lost all three games since Griffin was injured, giving up 115.3 points per game in those defeats.
"At least you can see like the light at the end of the tunnel, getting a couple of guys back," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "That'll be nice."
Butler is expected to play for the Timberwolves on Wednesday even though he sprained his left pinkie finger in the Monday defeat. While center Justin Patton is out indefinitely for Minnesota with a foot injury, forward Nemanja Bjelica is closer to returning from his own foot issue, but it remains unknown if he will be available Wednesday.
Updated December 6, 2017