By Melissa Rohlin
FOX Sports Writer NBA
the Mowers couldn’t have scripted things better.
Minnesota Timberwolves superstar Karl-Anthony Towns fouled out in Tuesday’s playoff with 7:34 left, finishing with the worst plus-minus (-14) of any team member.
The Clippers had executed their game plan perfectly. Their teeming defense knocked the 6-foot-11 center from his game. They frustrated him into a useless ornament on the bench.
But there was a twist.
Instead of cruising to an easy win, the Clippers crumbled on the stretch as the Timberwolves staged a masterclass in teamwork behind the grit of Patrick Beverley and the silky shots of Anthony Edwards and D’Angelo Russell.
Now, after their 109-104 loss, the Clippers are set to play a decisive game on Friday against the winner of Wednesday’s showdown between the 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans and the 11th-seeded San Antonio Spurs. . Meanwhile, the Timberwolves got the seventh seed.
This loss will sting.
The Clippers had a 10-point lead with 8:40 to play. A minute later, the Timberwolves lost their best player. This one should have been in the bag. But in the end, the Clippers slipped into a Los Angeles-sized drought while the Timberwolves let it rain in the land of 10,000 lakes, turning their double-digit deficit into a seven-point lead, a 17-point turnaround. points.
“They played a lot better without KAT on the ground,” Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said dryly. “They attacked us defensively. They managed to change a lot more stuff. And I just didn’t think we made the right plays.”
Edwards, just 20 and playing his first playoff game, had 30 points on 10-for-21 shooting. Russell had 29 points on 10-for-18 shooting, five rebounds and six assists. And Beverley was the heart and soul of the team, igniting Minnesota with her tireless engine, while finishing with seven points and 11 rebounds.
After the game, emotions poured out on Beverley, who the Clippers traded in August. He cried as he hugged his teammates. He took to Instagram Live, unleashing a swearing-filled rant, calling his former team “weak a– Clippers” and telling them to “get out of here.” And he drank a beer during his interview with the journalists.
“I gave my blood, my sweat and my tears to this organization,” said Beverley, who signed a one-year, $13 million contract extension with the Timberwolves. “…To just be written off like this: ‘Ah, he’s injury-prone, he’s old, this, this, that, that.’ To be able to play them in a play-in and beat their a–, no [better] feeling.”
As the Timberwolves celebrated their second postseason series since 2004, the Clippers found themselves in a familiar position: their backs against the wall.
They have one game left to save their season.
At least it’s not new territory for the Clippers. They battled two 0-2 playoff deficits last season, against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round and the Utah Jazz in the second to reach the Western Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history.
And this season they have proven time and time again that they have a lot of fight in them. While other injury-ravaged teams excused their failures (i.e. the Lakers), the Clippers dug deep and secured the eighth seed without Kawhi Leonard all season and without Paul George for more than half.
With their playoff hopes teetering by a thread, George prepares for what’s to come.
“I don’t care who we play,” said George, who had 34 points, seven rebounds and five assists. “The mindset is that we have to win regardless. There are no pep talks, X’s and O’s. We have to win if we want to continue our season.”
The already dramatic evening took a bizarre turn late in the second quarter when a fan tried to stick his hand on the field in protest at Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor’s factory egg farm. The farm should have killed chickens in response to an outbreak of bird flu.
The fan, who wore a shirt that read ‘Glen Taylor Roasts Live Animals’, was escorted off the field by security as members of both teams looked confused.
“I saw her and thought she fell. I didn’t know what happened to her,” Lue said, before expressing shock when a reporter explained what happened. . “What do you mean stuck to the ground!”
Beverley added: “I tried to help her up. I just wanted to make sure she was okay.”
To say things got even weirder from there.
In the fourth quarter, Edwards and Russell combined for 17 points, almost as many points as the Clippers scored in the entire period (20).
It was an unfortunate loss for the Clippers, who are trying to become the only NBA team from Los Angeles to qualify for the playoffs after the Lakers fell dramatically.
Now it all comes down to Friday.
Either they will once again show their tenacity.
Or they’ll be the last Los Angeles team to sneak in with their tail between their legs.
Melissa Rohlin is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the league for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Times, the Bay Area News Group and the San Antonio Express-News. Follow her on Twitter @melissarohlin.
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