The Los Angeles Clippers have been difficult to finish off lately. In their past three victories, they have rallied from at least 20 points down, including an impressive comeback Saturday at Boston against the Celtics.
When the Clippers visit the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night in the finale of a six-game road trip, they will be up against another team that has struggled to put away opponents of late.
Minnesota has lost four in a row and can match its longest losing streak of the season with a defeat to the Clippers.
The Timberwolves enter the week five games behind the Clippers for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They're coming off a 122-117 loss at the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.
"It's important to be honest with guys, and also be sure all of us are honest with ourselves individually," Minnesota interim head coach Ryan Saunders said after the loss. "What that means is, what can you do more of, or what can you do less of, to help us attain our goal of reaching the playoffs? But we're not going to reach the playoffs by winning on Monday. We're going to reach the playoffs if we do the right things day by day and then we win games."
The Clippers decided they weren't going to stand pat in their drive to the postseason, as well as locking down a brighter future, by making a series of deals leading up to Thursday's trade deadline. Four of the players they acquired made their team debuts on Saturday at Boston and helped the Clippers rally from a 28-point deficit and win 123-112.
Ivica Zubac moved directly into the starting lineup at center after his acquisition from the Los Angeles Lakers on Thursday and offered 12 points, nine rebounds and three blocks. He will face a much stiffer challenge against Minnesota All-Star center Karl-Anthony Towns, who leads the Timberwolves in scoring (23.1) and rebounding (12.1).
Garrett Temple, who came to the Clippers from the Memphis Grizzlies on Thursday, started at shooting guard and scored 11 points in his first game since Jan. 25.
The biggest contribution from a new player came from backup point guard Landry Shamet, who made three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored 17 points off the bench.
"I'm just excited to keep going forward," Shamet said afterward.
Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said the Clippers used Shamet the same way they used sharpshooter J.J. Redick when he played for the Clippers from 2013-17.
"He can really shoot, and he shoots off the run so quick." Rivers said of Shamet, who also came over from the Grizzlies.
The Timberwolves are hoping to get some players back from injury against the Clippers.
Third-leading scorer Derrick Rose (18.3) practiced on Sunday after missing the past three games with an ankle injury and Saunders still is waiting to make a decision on his availability Monday.
Fifth-leading scorer Robert Covington (13.3) participated in some shooting drills, but he's still a few games from returning from an ankle injury.
Starting Wolves point guard Jeff Teague returned against New Orleans after coming off the bench for the first time this season. He missed the previous eight games with an ankle injury and played 17 minutes Friday. Saunders said Sunday that Teague came out of that game with no setbacks and should be available against the Clippers.
"We got to go on a streak and make a run at it," Teague said. "Right now, we've just got to get some guys healthy. A lot of guys are out, some of our main players. Hopefully, we can get some guys back and just try to make a run at it."
--Field Level Media