Mercifully, the All-Star break is here for struggling Timberwolves
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Wednesday's game at Target Center pitted a team that has been at home since last Saturday against a team that has spent the last two weeks on the road, playing eight games in that span.
The road team, the Los Angeles Clippers out-shot and out-hustled the home team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, in an ugly 98-90 loss that mercifully sent the Wolves stumbling into the All-Star break.
And this Clipper team hadn't exactly been world-beaters during their extended road trip because the Staples Center had been host to the Grammy awards, they were coming off three consecutive loses to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Toronto Raptors and Milwaukee Bucks -- the worst two teams in the Eastern Conference and another that's just trying to keep their head above water.
This was the third consecutive egg the Wolves have laid on their home court and it's clear they are ready for the break -- and have been for a while.
"I hate to say it but if there has ever been a team I have been around that needs the break, this is the team," coach Kurt Rambis said.
It was a match up between two of the most-hyped young players in the league, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.
Griffin outshined his Western Conference All-Star teammate, scoring 29 points on 12-of-20 shooting and added eight rebounds, five assists and a block. Griffin also routinely did something that many Wolves players have struggled to do lately, get the fans out of their seats.
A larger than normal crowd of 15,227 -- due in large part to Griffin's presence -- stood and gasped every time Griffin had the ball in an open lane and rewarded the high-flyer with applause at a decibel level not usually heard inside Target Center this season.
Love increased his consecutive double-double streak to 42 games with an 18 point, 18 rebound performance but once again came up short -- both statistically and in the win column -- to a fellow All-Star.
The Wolves managed to shoot just 35.4 percent from the field, their worst since putting up a season low 33.3 percent on Nov. 3. The road-weary Clippers, on the other hand, put up 45.6 percent from the field.
"How many lay-ups did we miss? How many three, four foot bunnies did we miss? How many wide-open shots did we miss?" Rambis asked rhetorically after the game. "We couldn't find a way to build momentum through our offense."
Turnovers -- one of many Achilles heels this season -- reared their ugly head again Wednesday as the Wolves gave the ball up 17 teams and they led to 18 Clipper points.
Rambis shook up the lineup a bit in an effort to inject some more energy to a starting five that had three players fail to score a field goal Monday against the Portland Trailblazers. Martell Webster got his first starting nod in a Wolves' jersey after his energetic 17 point performance off the bench Monday.
Webster scored nine points on just 3-of-9 shooting and grabbed two boards and dished an assist in 33 minutes.
Rambis wouldn't commit to keeping Webster in the starting lineup after the game, saying he needs to evaluate things once Michael Beasley returns.
The Wolves were once again without the services of second-leading scorer Beasley who continues to rest his ankle that has limited him since January. Beasley now has a few extra days to rest and could return next Tuesday at Milwaukee if he is feeling up to it, according to Rambis.
Joining Beasley on the bench was Jonny Flynn who Rambis announced before the game would miss the next week to give his legs a chance to rest. Flynn has worked tirelessly to return from the hip surgery that held him out the first 24 games of the season and Rambis thinks the time off will help with his confidence.
"He agrees, he admits it (he needs to rest)," Rambis continued. "We've got to do something. He is too good a player to not be comfortable and confident out there."
With Flynn out, Ridnour reclaimed the post of starting point guard after spending the past two games coming off the bench in relief of Flynn.
Ridnour, like his teammates, struggled shooting, scoring 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting to go along with his three points and three turnovers.
After the game, the Wolves were all in agreement with their coaches comments: this team needs a break.
"It's time for me to get away. I need some time to rest and heal," Webster said.
"Time to get away from basketball for a bit and just refresh," Anthony Tolliver sadi.
"We just need to get away from the game and everyone needs to refocus and look themselves in the mirror and see what we can do to help this team win some games," Ridnour said.