It took just two Blake Griffin possessions -- a spin past giant Nikola Pekovic and a sweet up-and-under that left Kevin Love grabbing air -- to know that the Timberwolves' big men were in for a long night. Griffin dominated inside, scoring all but six of his points in the paint or at the line. Unfortunately, the T-Wolves' persistant double teams stymied him down the stretch, holding Griffin to just three points in the fouth.
The one fair criticism of Chris Paul's game may be that his unselfishness can occasionally border on passivity. Tonight, Paul came off screens looking to get into the paint and the result was a bunch of easy looks close to the rim. But Paul wasn't able to jump-start the offense when it stalled in the second half, and his good work will be largely forgotten in an ugly loss.
Caron Butler looked off Tuesday night. Not only did he miss nine of his 10 shots, he looked bad doing it. The majority of his shots were contested jumpers, and most weren't close. Clippers fans must legitimately worry that Butler's lack of aggression -- he never attempted to get to the rim -- is evidence the stiff back and sore knee he hoped to rest over the break may still be bothering him.
All season the Clippers have been plagued by an inability to put away lesser teams. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Wolves managed to stay close by draining clutch 3-pointers, closing hard on shooters and capitalizing when the Clips went cold. The Clippers' ability to sustain dominance will be a key factor in the season's second half.
After winning 17 games all of last season, the Wolves came out of the All-Star break 17-17, just a game out of the Western Conference's eighth playoff spot. With the game on the line Tuesday night, it was the Wolves who played like a playoff team, beating the Clippers with smooth ball movement and open 3-pointers. Rick Adelman has this team playing meaningful games ahead of schedule.