For the Clippers, a terrible twofer back east
What happens to the Clippers in New Jersey apparently isn’t confined to the Northeast.
Two days after losing to the worst team in the NBA, the Clippers ventured to the Target Center and stumbled against another franchise already looking forward to the draft lottery.
Minnesota moved into double digits for victories thanks to a 111-97 triumph Friday night that left the Clippers in need of a novel approach to reverse their sagging fortunes.
A players-only meeting earlier in the day did little to help the team regroup from a 16-point loss to the woeful Nets.
“We just talked about salvaging the rest of this season and to try to put Wednesday’s loss behind us,” said forward Marcus Camby, who had 10 points and 19 rebounds.
So much for that.
The Clippers spotted Minnesota the game’s first nine points and fell behind by as many as 23 during a first half in which they gave up a mind-numbing flurry of transition baskets. The Timberwolves finished the half with 18 fastbreak points.
It took an otherworldly third quarter by point guard Baron Davis for the Clippers to make it a five-point game midway through the fourth quarter. They would get no closer.
Davis scored 23 of his 28 points in the third quarter, setting a Clippers record and tying the franchise record set by Randy Smith of the Buffalo Braves against Boston on Oct. 20, 1972.
“The way we started that third quarter -- free-flowing and getting out passing the ball, moving the ball and not worrying about anything but going out there and playing -- that’s what it’s going to take for us to be a good team,” said Davis, who described his team’s offense as “stale” and “lethargic” for most of the game.
Though Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy called the New Jersey defeat a “terrible loss,” he labeled the defeat against the Timberwolves (10-38) -- a team the Clippers had already defeated three times -- only a “bad loss” because center Chris Kaman was sidelined with a sprained ankle.
Minnesota’s big men thrived in Kaman’s absence. Center Al Jefferson and forward Kevin Love each notched double-doubles, Jefferson finishing with 14 points and 16 rebounds and Love getting 13 points to go with 13 rebounds.
The Clippers are now 0-5 in games Kaman has missed.
Center Brian Skinner made his first start of the season, but he played only five minutes and Dunleavy went with a small lineup in the second half to spread the court and run pick-and-rolls.
The plan was hindered by the Clippers’ making only 41.5% of their shots. Davis made 10 of 24 and shooting guard Eric Gordon converted six of 17. Gordon even struggled from the free-throw line, where the 74.7% shooter made only three of nine attempts.
“We just had no offense,” Gordon said.
The Clippers (20-26) had aspired to reach .500 before the All-Star break, but to do so they would need to win their next six games. That seems unlikely for a team that has lost 11 of its last 12 games on the road and eight of 11 games overall.
The Clippers are 1-4 on an eight-game trip that makes its next stop Sunday in Cleveland, where the Cavaliers are 18-3.
Might playing an upper-echelon team after two clunkers against lowly competition help the Clippers break out of their funk?
“It isn’t going to get any easier on this road trip,” Davis said. “We let two games get away that we should have won had we played with the effort, had we played with the freedom and the mentality that we need to play with in order to be successful.”
Kaman tested his ankle in warmups and said he wasn’t able to elevate sufficiently to play.
“It’s not about the pain,” he said, “it’s about being able to perform out there like I’m capable of. I tried to go warm it up and the strength’s not there yet. . . . Hopefully, I’ll be good to go against Cleveland.”