You will not soon see another offensive display the likes of the one the Minnesota Timberwolves unleashed on the Clippers in Los Angeles Tuesday night. Two and a half minutes into the game, the Clippers took a 6-4 lead, and although they could never pull away, they seemed destined to hang on, and still led 70-63 with about two minutes left in the third period. For the next 12 minutes and 30 seconds, the T-Wolves went completely nuts, outscoring the Clippers 43-19 on their way to a 109-97 victory.
Minnesota made 14 of 15 field goal attempts during the run. Five of those baskets were three-pointers. They also made 10 of 11 free throws. In the final analysis, they scored 43 points in those 12 plus minutes, with not a fast break basket in sight. They scored everything in the halfcourt. They scored 43 points in 20 possessions (the one time they missed, they got the offensive rebound and scored BUT they did have one turnover). That's an offensive efficiency of 215 points per 100 possessions -- roughly twice as good as the best offense in the league. It was beautiful, if a bit surreal.
When one says it was Minnesota doing all of these things, it's a bit misleading -- it was mostly two guys, Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley. Williams, the second overall pick in the draft last June, scored a career high 27 points. He made 9 of 10 field goals, all four of this three-pointers and all five of his free throws. When you take the three-pointers into consideration, his effective field goal percentage for the game was 110 percent. It's a really terrible sports cliche, but Williams literally gave 110 percent Tuesday night. Coming into the game he was 12-48 from beyond the three point arc on the season. By midway through the fourth quarter, he was launching heat checks from far beyond the line, with a defender in his face, and they were going in. Which raises an interesting philosophical question: can you heat check a heat check?
Beasley was almost as hot. The second overall pick in the 2008 draft, he was 11 for 15, three for three from deep. He too finished with 27, and he too started tossing up pretty much anything in the fourth, and watching it go in. With Beasley and Williams contributing 54, the Minnesota bench combined for 72 points, an NBA season high. The Clippers' bench scored 11.
This game was supposed to be about the battle between Blake Griffin and Kevin Love, or perhaps the battle between Chris Paul and Ricky Rubio. As it happens, those matchups were no contest, as the Clipper stars easily outplayed their counterparts. Griffin and Paul combined for 57 points on 21 for 36 shooting, while Love and Rubio managed just 12 points on 5 for 21. But when Minnesota put together the decisive fourth quarter run, it was with Love and Rubio sitting on the bench.
Minnesota is arguably the surprise team of the league this season and finds themselves contending for a playoff spot in the very deep Western Conference, but for the most part they've done that without a lot of contribution from Williams or Beasley to date. Beasley missed 11 games in January, and is scoring just 12 points a game compared to 19 last season. Williams has been adjusting to life in the NBA; he's averaging 7 points per game, and his season high prior to Tuesday was 15. If either one or both of those guys are ready to step up for Minnesota, this could be a very scary team in the playoffs.
The loss is the Clippers' third in their last four games. They drop to 20-12 on the season and 12-5 at home. Minnesota improves to 18-17 overall and 8-7 on the road.