LOS ANGELES - Defense was an issue for the Wolves even when Jimmy Butler was in the lineup last season. When he wasn’t in the lineup, the defense was mediocre at best and dreadful at its worst.
Entering this season, the Wolves are likely not to have Butler in the lineup at all, as trade chatter around his two-week old request heats up. The Wolves had another opportunity to fine tune what they would look like without Butler and the results on defense were less than stellar.
The Clippers cruised to a 128-101 victory over the Wolves as the Wolves’ starters struggled at both ends of the floor. The starters allowed 34 points over the first 8 minutes, 30 seconds of the game, putting the Wolves in a permanent hole while the two-guard lineup that performed well on offense in a win Saturday over Golden State wasn’t as efficient.
"I knew the way the first quarter went it was just too much, too easy," Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau said. "Then we came back and then we did the same thing again."
Derrick Rose finished with seven points for the Wolves on 3-for-11 shooting while Jeff Teague was 0-for-7 and six points.
On Saturday against the Warriors, Thibodeau had a clear delineation between his starters and his bench. Each played the bulk of the game in distinct five-man units. That continued for most of Wednesday, though Thibodeau did some mixing and matching at different times.
Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 18 points, played a few minutes in the third quarter with Tyus Jones, Josh Okogie, Keita Bates-Diop and Anthony Tolliver while Bates-Diop saw a little run with the other four starters in the first half.
A positive development for the Wolves was the bench held its own against the Clippers second unit. Anthony Tolliver led the way with 10 points from the reserves while Okogie scored six of eight points from the free-throw line.
The second unit’s plus-minus numbers ranged from zero to six while the starters were from -19 to -26.
"We weren’t good at all tonight defensively," Towns said. "Transition they scored too much. Paint points was too much. It’s about more us in the preseason. We have to solidify our identity."
Tobias Harris had 23 points for the Clippers while Danilo Gallinari had 22.