Another road loss for Wolves as Clippers pull away at finish line
LOS ANGELES Jimmy Butler didnt play for the Timberwolves on Sunday at Portland, the third game he missed this season for precautionary rest, but he was in the lineup on Monday against the Clippers.
Only problem for the Wolves was he didnt really show up until the fourth quarter, and by then it was a little too late for the Wolves to overtake the Clippers, who had just enough offensive firepower to get the 120-109 victory at Staples Center.
Butler entered the fourth quarter shooting with just four points on 1-for-6 shooting from the field, a product of the Clippers Patrick Beverley providing nagging defense on him most of the night. With Beverley resting to start the fourth quarter, Butler scored the first nine Wolves points and finished with 20 for on 6-for-13 shooting. But Tobias Harris and Danilo Gallinari each scored 22 for the Clippers, who dropped the Wolves to 0-6 on the road this season and 0-3 on this West Coast road trip.
After a strong first half, Karl-Anthony Towns faded in the second half, scoring only four of his 20 points to go with 12 rebounds. Neither Butler nor Towns individual were the problem for the Wolves, though, as their defense couldnt create stops down the stretch to enable a comeback.
Gallinari put the Wolves away, first with a three-pointer to give Los Angeles a 110-103 lead, then a dunk to make it 118-108.
Monday marked the seventh starting lineup the Wolves have trotted out this season. Compare that with last season, when they used only six over 82 games. It underscores the point that coach Tom Thibodeau has had to a lot of mixing and matching with his personnel due to injury and Butler popping in and out of the lineup because of precautionary rest and his general soreness.
But Butlers soreness diminished as he and the Wolves landed in sunny, warm Los Angeles for a set of games against the Clippers and Lakers.
Also returning to the lineup was Rose, playing his first significant minutes since scoring 50 on the Jazz in 41 minutes on Wednesday. During that game, Rose injured his left ankle and he played only five minutes at Golden State on Friday before exiting that game and then sitting out Sunday. Rose started at point guard for Jeff Teague, who missed his fourth consecutive game because of a bruised knee. Rose and Butlers return meant the Wolves were almost at full strength.
With Butler back in the lineup there might have been some concern from the Wolves fanbase concerning the performance of Towns, who seems to do perform better offensively when Butler isnt in the lineup. The early numbers bear that out.
In games when Butler has played, Towns was averaging 15 points per game on 39 percent shooting. In games Butler was absent, those numbers rose to 27.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting. But contrary to that trend, Towns came out aggressive on the offensive end, determined to get the best of his matchup against Clippers big man Boban Marjanovic.
Marjanovic got a block in early on Towns, but after that Towns seemingly had his way in the paint. At one point, Towns nearly had a posterizing dunk on Marjanovic, but he drew a foul and converted the free throws. He finished the first half with 16 points and 10 rebounds on 6-for-9 shooting and looked like the best player on the floor. His strong first 24 minutes helped compensate for a not-so great half from Butler and Andrew Wiggins, who combined to shoot 2-for-11. Clippers guard Patrick Beverley had the task of guarding Butler most of the night, and Beverley got the better of that matchup.