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Monday, March 5, 2012
What to watch: Clippers-Timberwolves

By Arash Markazi

Clippers (22-13) vs. Minnesota Timberwolves (19-19) at Target Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Payback time: Two of the toughest losses the Clippers suffered this season came at the hands of the Timberwolves at Staples Center. The first came on a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Kevin Love and the second came last week when Minnesota’s bench obliterated the Clippers’ reserves 72-11. In both games, the Clippers controlled the game from the opening tip and led in the fourth quarter before fading late. Chris Paul will no doubt remind the Clippers about both losses on their home court and the need to exact a measure of revenge now on Minnesota’s home court.

2. K-Mart special: The recent resurgence of the Clippers’ bench production has been led by Kenyon Martin, who has finally returned to his old form after joining the Clippers last month (following a stint in China during the NBA lockout). Over the last three games on the road, Martin is shooting 53.3 percent from the field and averaging 10.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks. Martin’s best three-game stretch as a Clipper has come as he plays through bruised ribs that have had him listed as day-to-day since last week.

3. Closeout game: Not only did the Clippers’ 105-103 win over the Rockets in overtime keep them in first place in the Pacific division but it also prevented them from losing another close game late. During the Clippers’ stretch of four losses in six games they had blown fourth quarter leads in each game and had gotten into a rut of not closing out, which was not a problem at the beginning of the season. The Clippers are hoping their comeback win over Houston will be a turning point rather than a small break in what has been a recent trend.

4. C’mon Caron: Another streak the Clippers hope was snapped against Houston was the recent poor play of Caron Butler. Against the Rockets, Butler had 14 points and hit 2-of-3 from beyond the arc. In his previous seven games heading into Sunday’s game against Houston, Butler had averaged just 8.1 points per game while shooting 32.3 percent (23-of-71 FG) from the field and 11.7 percent (2-of-17) from beyond the arc. Butler’s shooting percentage is still an area of concern. He only hit four of 12 shots against Houston and only added 2 rebounds and zero assists.

5. Back on line: After shooting a combined 17 free throws in two games against Sacramento and Phoenix, the Clippers shot 25 free throws against the Rockets, making 19. Coming into Sunday’s game against the Rockets, the Clippers’ opponents had shot 35 more free throws than the Clippers in their last two games. One of the biggest surprises of the Clippers road trip so far has been the team's ability to hit their free throws. In their last three games they have hit 35-of-42 free throws (83.3 percent).