Timberwolves vs Clippers play-in game: Paul George is back to lead LA; Minnesota ready for the big stage

the Minnesota Wolves were one of the good surprises of the 2021-22 season NBA season, going from the league’s sixth-worst record a year ago to being on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs for the first time since 2018. Although Wolves are the highest seeded in the play-off Tuesday’s Western Conference 7-8 vs. Los Angeles Clippersthat doesn’t mean they’ll be marching all over Los Angeles, which has also been a surprise team considering the injuries they’ve suffered.

Under first-year head coach Chris Finch, the Timberwolves improved their defense and made key changes on offense to get the most out of the star player. Karl Anthony Towns. Minnesota also has weapons up and down the list, from Anthony Edwards significant improvement and D’Angelo Russell’s production on offense, Jarred Vanderbilt be a solid and versatile defender. Minnesota is one of the hottest teams since the All-Star break and could be a dangerous team if they secure a playoff spot.

On the other side of this game are the Clippers, who resisted not having Kawhi Leonard for the entirety of this season, and were without Paul George for a significant part of it, too. But LA relied on its depth in their absence, as Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris stepped up their offense, and their eighth-ranked defense has not only kept them in most games this season, but won them many times. In a typical season in which the Clippers were completely healthy, they wouldn’t end up in the qualifying round because they would be considered title contenders. But here we are, and while the Clippers are confident in their ability to beat the Timberwolves, they can’t get past them and expect to pick up the win. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Timberwolves-Clippers play-in game.

(7) Minnesota Timberwolves vs. (8) Los Angeles Clippers

  • When: Tuesday April 12 | 9:30 p.m. ET
  • Or: Target Center – Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • TV: DTT | Direct: DTT
  • Odds: MIN-150; LAC +130; O/U 230.5 (via Caesars Sportsbook)

Featured game | Minnesota Timberwolves vs Los Angeles Clippers

1. Will a healthier Clippers team deliver?

Paul George has returned from an absence of three and a half months, and Norman Powell is also back in the rotation after missing 22 straight games. While Kawhi Leonard isn’t a fit for this game, it’s the healthiest the Clippers have been all season, and despite being the lowest-ranked team here, it wouldn’t be at all surprising if they win a victory.

Before George fell in December, the Clippers had the fifth-best record in the West, and George looked like a legitimate MVP candidate. Although this team still missed the dominating two-way production of Leonard, who is still recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in the playoffs last year, George was keeping the Clippers afloat as they looked like a team that could finish with a top-six seed. in the conference.

Now that George is back and Powell is back after trading for him at the deadline, the Clippers are in great position to pick up a road win in this game. What may have been one of the positives of George and Leonard’s absence was the development of other guys on the team, like Reggie Jackson and Terance Mann.

Jackson has come out on top numerous times for the Clippers over the past three years, both in the regular season and in the playoffs, but he’s picked up most of the scoring in the absence of George and Leonard. Mann continued his development as a pesky defender, and LA allows more than two under when the third-year guard is on the ground. He’s become a constant threat when he comes to the rim, as he converts 66% of his shots around the basket, which ranks in the 81st percentile among league guards.

George is going to get his numbers, but it will be key for guys like Jackson, Mann and Powell to go up against a high-powered Minnesota offense in this game. Speaking of what…

2. Can Wolves’ brilliant attack live up to the pressure?

The Timberwolves finished the regular season with the league’s sixth-best offense, and since the All-Star break they’ve been even better, ranking third in the NBA. It starts with the play of franchise star Karl-Anthony Towns, who has become a more versatile player this season. He plays off the post less and is on the perimeter where he can either get his bearings for a 3-pointer, take a few dribbles for a midrange jumper, or drive to the edge and finish.

Towns’ versatility creates a confrontational problem for opposing teams, as taller defenders often can’t keep up with him when he runs to the rim, and shorter defenders will be intimidated at the post. He’s done that consistently all season, and in his first fully healthy season since 2019 he returned to All-Star form for Wolves. Now we’ll have to see if cities can take advantage of defenders like Ivica Zubac, Isaiah Hartenstein and Nicholas Batum when it matters most.

As well as the cities delivering under the brightest lights, we’ll also have to see how Anthony Edwards fares in what will be the most pressured game of his professional career. The 2020 No. 1 overall pick has become a more effective scorer, especially from depth, going from a 32.9% long-range shooter to 36% this season. He became a consistent 20 point-a-night scorer, able to put points on the board at all three levels.

But there have been games where Edwards won’t be as aggressive as Minnesota needs him to be, and that can’t happen in this game. For Wolves to win, it will take the version of Edwards who wasn’t afraid to shoot in his 49-point performance, not the player who tends to look for scoring opportunities.

This is where the game will be the most entertaining. Beverley will face the team that traded him in 2021, and more than that, he has the ability to really rock this game for the Timberwolves. Beverley lives to be a pest in defense, and not just locking down guards, but trying to get inside the heads of opposing players. He’ll try to upset LA every chance he gets, whether it’s overselling a rude call and getting the crowd excited, or chewing on Clippers players to disrupt their game. But he is more than just a pest. Beverley can be a threat to Wolves, and if his shot goes down it only further emboldens him to be more aggressive and boring in defence.

However, the Clippers know firsthand how Beverley tries to get opposing teams out of their game. There’s a chance that Beverley’s antics won’t bother LA at all, which could neutralize her impact on the game. We’ve also seen Beverley play off the court in specific games – think last year’s playoffs against Luka Doncic, for example. It wouldn’t be surprising to see George try to move on to Beverley and take advantage of the size mismatch. If that happens, Minnesota may have to choose wisely how they use Beverley in this game.

Prediction

This game should be fun, and with George back for the Clippers, they should have a very good chance of winning this game. But the Timberwolves have really turned a corner since the all-star break, and I expect Towns to have a big night against Zubac and Hartenstein. Pick: Timber Wolves -3

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