Clippers face must-win play-in game after blowing late lead, losing to Timberwolves
The Clippers had a plan.
When it worked too well, Patrick Beverley and the Minnesota Timberwolves had a party.
Eight months after the Clippers traded him, Beverley celebrated as they walked off Target Center’s floor, flinging a ball in the air, leaping atop the scorer’s table and holding his white headband with both hands while sitting down to stop tears that kept falling after Minnesota’s 109-104, play-in tournament victory.
A franchise that had just one playoff appearance since 2004 secured a cathartic first-round series against Memphis — all after the Clippers had appeared to secure this game.
By defending Karl-Anthony Towns physically and drawing offensive fouls, the Clippers did their job to perfection in disrupting the star center, who fouled out with 7 minutes 34 seconds left and L.A. leading by seven after Towns produced just 11 points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. But the Clippers could not finish the job even when leading by 10, appearing to have no backup plan when their first had worked so well.
“We had a game plan of how to attack them,” coach Tyronn Lue said. “And they played a lot better with KAT off the floor.”
Instead of being buried, the Timberwolves were emboldened in front of a raging crowd, their youthful core undaunted against a playoff-tested Clippers roster while led by Anthony Edwards’ 30 points and D’Angelo Russell’s 29, and Beverley’s under-their-skin antics helped limit the Clippers to long field-goal droughts in the second and fourth quarters.
The Clippers traded Patrick Beverley eight months ago. Tuesday they will face him and the Minnesota Timberwolves in an NBA play-in game for a playoff spot.
And after the Clippers failed to make the most of their chances, they have just one more chance to extend their season, hosting the winner of the play-in game between ninth-place New Orleans and 10th-place San Antonio on Friday in a win-or-else game at Crypto.com Arena for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot.
“Honestly, it’s not even about the matchup,” said Paul George, who scored 34 points. “Obviously if we don’t win we go home. I could care less who we play.
“There’s no pep talk, Xs and O’s. We got to win if we want to continue our season.”
When Nicolas Batum guarded Towns, center Ivica Zubac often rushed at the Timberwolves center after he caught the ball. When George drove past Towns, Reggie Jackson reached in for a swipe before Zubac’s straight-up defense bumped Towns to the floor.
Towns missed his first seven shots, didn’t shoot free throws until four minutes remained in the first half and had to be calmed down on the sideline by teammates multiple times amid foul trouble.
“Are you f—ing serious?” Towns said after his fourth foul in the half. He then turned to Russell on the sideline and said, “What do you want me to do?”
When a woman ran onto the court late in the half and attempted to glue her wrists to the floor underneath a basket, reportedly in protest against Minnesota owner Glen Taylor, the bizarre act was only slightly more unexpected than the Timberwolves sticking around, considering their frustrations.
Missing injured guard Luke Kennard, whose 44.9% three-point shooting led the NBA, a Clippers offense that had led the league in scoring since George’s return in late March went catatonic, making just one field goal in the final 7:20 before halftime and nine points in the fourth quarter’s last six minutes. The Clippers made 16 of 35 three-pointers but only 12 of 28 shots inside the paint. Lineups with a center and lineups with all wings all eventually bogged down.
There were the Clippers’ nine first-half turnovers. A needless technical foul drawn by Marcus Morris Sr. George made two of his first 10 shots.
Lue was worried about Russell’s scoring — he added seven fourth-quarter points, including a dagger 23-footer to lead by six with two minutes to play, with Lue wishing he’d blitzed the guard more often. Lue was worried about rebounding; the Clippers grabbed 10 fewer. Lue knew Beverley would try to rile his former teammates; he did, his seven-point, 11-rebound line not coming close to quantifying the cockiness he supplied a team with no baseline for postseason intensity.
He nearly baited Marcus Morris Sr. into an ejection by entangling their arms. He pushed and chirped and thrived in the chaos of his own making.
With the Clippers focusing their energies on Tuesday’s play-in game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, the bench led the way to a 138-88 win over the Thunder.
“It’s all for show; it’s for the crowd,” George said. “I love it. I miss it, his doing it on our side, because it’s contagious.”
Beverley flexed toward the Clippers’ bench in the final minute, then afterward posted an expletive-laden Instagram post calling out the “weak-ass Clippers.” His trade was spurred, he has said, when the Clippers offered him a contract extension he found “disrespectful.” Minnesota inked him to a $13-million extension in the winter and he cried “money well spent” jogging to his locker room — which exactly no one took as a comment on the arena’s newly painted walls.
“I gave my blood and sweat and tears to that organization,” Beverley said at the dais, sipping a Bud Light. “To be written off by them — ‘He’s injury prone, he’s old’ ... to be able to play them in a play-in and beat their ass, no better feeling.”
Spotting Lue in a hallway between the teams’ locker rooms when it was over, Beverley spoke up one last time.
“See y’all,” he said, “in the Western Conference finals.”
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