Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio are usually instrumental to the Minnesota Timberwolves' success.
That has surprisingly has not been the case this season in two meetings against the Los Angeles Clippers, but the Timberwolves will likely need a strong performance from their two stars Monday night if they are to defeat Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and the rest of the Clippers again.
Love has totaled 27 points and 21 rebounds in Minnesota's two previous games against the Clippers (22-13) this season, but has shot just 9 of 29. Rubio has fared even worse from the floor in those games, missing 17 of his 19 shots, and finishing with 11 points and 15 assists.
Love managed 10 points and seven rebounds at Los Angeles last Tuesday, while Rubio scored two points on 1-of-8 shooting but did finish with nine assists. Despite those lackluster performances, the Timberwolves (19-19) prevailed 109-97.
Forwards Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams combined for 54 points and shot 20 of 25 to help pick up the slack as Minnesota improved to 2-0 in the season series.
"We were knocking down open shots, taking what the defense gave us and just letting the ball flow," Beasley said. "We did a lot of penetrating and kicking out. Those guys like to block shots, so when you've got two or three guys going after one block, that means you have two guys open for jump shots. It's kind of hard to go from the rim back out to the perimeter and contest those shots."
Beasley and Williams have combined for 64 points in three games since that win.
Love and Rubio led the way in Saturday's 122-110 victory at Portland. Love had a season-high 42 points with 10 rebounds, while Rubio dished out 12 assists.
"That was one of our best wins of the year, I think," coach Rick Adelman said. "We got 60 points in each half. We came out real aggressive, but then they made their run on us. They're very athletic and they got us on our heels a little bit, but our guys responded. I thought we played a solid second half."
Just as Love and Rubio pace the Timberwolves, Griffin and Paul do the same for the Clippers.
The Los Angeles tandem came up big Sunday, as Paul had 28 points and 10 assists and Griffin added 14 points and 11 rebounds in a 105-103 victory at Houston. The Clippers improved to 2-1 on their six-game road trip, and 10-8 away from home on the season.
"This was a win we needed," Griffin said. "It is a relief."
Another victory also be welcome since the Clippers are just percentage points ahead of the Los Angeles Lakers for first place in the Pacific Division.
Griffin is averaging 26.2 points and 10.0 boards in six career meetings with the Timberwolves, including totals of 51 points and 17 boards in the two losses this season.
Paul scored 27 points in last week's loss to Minnesota.