Clippers at Timberwolves
The Los Angeles Clippers have not seemed to miss MVP candidate Chris Paul in the last two games thanks to some stellar bench play and the continued improvement of Eric Bledsoe. Paul will be a game-time decision on Thursday, when the Clippers continue their road trip at the Minnesota Timberwolves. The Timberwolves, who know all about playing without their superstar, have dropped five of six since Kevin Love went down for the second time with a broken hand.
Paul suffered a bruised right kneecap late in a loss to Orlando on Saturday but has been receiving treatment and is close to a return. Should he be sidelined again, Los Angeles could lean on Jamal Crawford, who scored a season-high 30 points in a win at Houston on Tuesday. Minnesota had trouble stopping anyone from scoring while being swept on a four-game road trip that ended at Dallas on Monday. The Timberwolves surrendered 107.3 points in the four games.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT
ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (30-9): Los Angeles dominated with defense in a 99-73 win at Memphis without Paul on Monday but broke out the high-scoring offense on Tuesday, getting 19 points apiece from Blake Griffin and Bledsoe in addition to Crawford’s big night. The Clippers have won five of their last six while scoring at least 99 points in each of the victories. Los Angeles’ deep bench, which includes the likes of Bledsoe, Crawford, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom, is built to withstand a brief injury to one of the stars. Ten different players got at least 13 minutes of playing time against the Rockets, and the rotation only will get larger when Paul and Chauncey Billups return.
ABOUT THE TIMBERWOLVES (16-19): Defense is the big area of concern at the moment, although the offense hasn’t been firing on all cylinders either due to all of the injuries the team has endured. Minnesota has allowed eight of its last nine opponents to reach the century mark and was burned by 59.7 percent shooting from the Mavericks in Monday’s 113-98 setback. Love, who underwent surgery this week and will be out until March, has been replaced by Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams at the power forward spot, while Nikola Pekovic takes on more of the rebounding burden at center. The Timberwolves also are still working Ricky Rubio (knee, back) slowly into the lineup by bringing him off the bench. Rubio logged a season-high 26 minutes at Dallas, collecting six points and six assists.
1. The Clippers got 23 points and 11 assists from Paul in a 101-95 home victory over the Timberwolves on Nov. 28.
2. Minnesota coach Rick Adelman has been away from the team the last five games to be with his ailing wife and there is no timetable for his return.
3. Los Angeles will head home to face Washington on Saturday before taking off again next week and playing 11 of 13 games on the road.