TSL Presents NBA Western Conference Play-In Preview | Los Angeles Clippers vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

(Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

The Clippers and Timberwolves face each other in the play-in tournament on Tuesday in Minneapolis for the seventh seed in the Western Conference playoffs. The winner will face the two seed Memphis Grizzlies in round one.

The Clippers finished the regular season at 42-40 playing without Kawhi Leonard all season and without Paul George for most of the season. Shout-out to head coach Ty Lue. George is back and there is optimism that Leonard could potentially return as well if the Clippers have an extended playoff run.

But first things first. They must advance past the play-in tournament.

Keys to victory

The Timberwolves are ninth in aNET rating, seventh in aORTG, and 13th in aDRTG. Karl-Anthony Towns is a matchup nightmare. The 7-foot center can score in the post and take you out to the three point line. He has a TS% of 65 and an eFG% of 59. Add in point guard orchestrator D’Angelo Russell and second-year guard Anthony Edwards and that is a tough trio to stop. If they can continue to exploit the matchup advantage they have with Towns and force the Clippers’ hands, it can open up lanes for Edwards and Russell.

The Clippers won the season series 3-1 and are getting healthy at the right time. George is back, Norm Powell is back. This Clippers team is veteran-laden and has been in big playoff games. They are stout defensively and rank eighth in aDRTG. They will have to slow the No. 1 team in the league in terms of pace, and force them to execute in the halfcourt.

X-factor player

Patrick Beverley, the former Clipper, has infused the Wolves with his spirit, energy, and moxy. The Wolves always had talent but they didn’t always grind and play with toughness. Ask Jimmy Butler …

Now they play with a swag and a confidence on both ends of the floor and that comes from Beverley’s leadership. George, his former teammate, sees the impact Beverley has made in Minnesota.

“This is definitely a nod to Pat Bev, I definitely see a team that is confident, I see a team that has believed, and they play with some heart,” George said Saturday night. “KAT is one of my closest friends in the league, and so I told him immediately when they got Pat Bev that he’s going to change a lot of stuff. Whether it is good or bad, he is going to make an impact. And he’s doing that. Pat Bev has really been the battery and the engine that they needed to have.”

Third-year pro Terance Mann has improved every season and is given more responsibility. He was thrust into playoff action last year as the Clippers dealt with injuries, and Lue made tactical adjustments. Those are all reference points for this postseason run.

MVP

Paul George is probably the best player in the series, but it’s close. Karl-Anthony Towns dominates and sets the stage for a big postseason.

Prediction

Las Vegas has the Timberwolves as -3.5 point favorites. If the Wolves can play within themselves and get out and run they can win this game comfortably. But Ty Lue and the Clippers have all the experience and proven playoff chops.

Timberwolves 107, Clippers 104.