The two new starters for the Clippers on Sunday originally were acquired to spend most of their time playing for the franchise’s developmental team.
But during these tumultuous times, the Clippers are just trying to plug their many holes, hoping that can slow their descent into the abyss.
It took all of Butler’s 20 fourth-quarter points, which gave him a game-high 33 on the night, to send the Clippers to their third straight loss since Blake Griffin went down with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee.
“We played so hard overall,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “They are good … Jimmy Butler is Jimmy Butler and he put the cape on down the stretch. He made tough shots. … But I just loved how we played. We competed.”
C.J. Williams started at guard and Jamil Wilson at forward — the two rookies who were signed to two-way contracts during the summer to play for the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.
Wilson had started the second half at Dallas on Saturday night, which turned out to be a preview of his first start in the NBA. He had nine points, all eight of his shots being three-point attempts. Williams had five points.
Wilson said he “got the news” he was starting from DeAndre Jordan.
“They didn’t tell me. DJ actually told me [Saturday] in the game to prepare mentally to start,” he said. “I had a heads-up. It was an awesome feeling. It would have been great to win to cap it off.”
The Clippers couldn’t because Butler wouldn’t let them. He scored 12 straight points in the fourth to give the Timberwolves the lead for good.
“Jimmy made some big shots,” Rivers said. “But we gave ourselves a chance. What I tell them every night is if we execute every night, which I thought we did, especially offensively, you give yourself a chance to win.”
The lineup changes allowed Lou Williams to give the Clippers a bigger scoring option off the bench. He finished with 23 points.
The changes also allowed Austin Rivers a chance to be the starting lineup’s main option on offense. He scored a season-high 30 points, two shy of his career high. He dropped in 20 points in the first half, the highest scoring half of his career.
He finished nine of 14 from the field, seven of 10 from three-point range.
“You have just got to commend Jamil, C.J., our rookies Sindarius [Thornwell] and Jawun [Evans],” Austin Rivers said. “That’s a tough situation to come in. We got guys from the G League and you don’t know half the plays and you just figure it out and you come out here and be effective. But that’s what it’s going to take, is for us to outwork people.”