Danilo Gallinari was in the right places at the right times Wednesday in his return to the Clippers’ starting lineup after an 13-game layoff because of a strained left glute.
He dribbled past defenders for layup attempts and drifted beyond the 3-point arc for perimeter jump shots.
Gallinari shot and missed.
Again and again.
He sank a 3-pointer in the first quarter.
He made a driving dunk in the second.
He hit two free throws in the fourth.
That was it.
Gallinari scored seven points on 2-for-13 shooting against the Minnesota Timberwolves, including 1 of 5 from 3-point range.
It wasn’t the comeback he expected, but the Clippers weren’t surprised.
After all, it had been an extended layoff and Gallinari’s rustiness was evident from the jump.
“Gallo struggled,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “but you could see he got to the rim over and over again. He just couldn’t convert, but that’s what happens when you miss that many games in a row, then go play an NBA game. I liked his drives. I liked him getting to the bucket.
“But you could see his shot was flat right off his hand.”
Gallinari averaged 12.8 points on 35.5 percent shooting in nine games before he was injured during the Clippers’ loss Nov. 5 to the Miami Heat. He made only 26 percent of his 3-point shots, which raised concerns among the Clippers’ coaching staff.
The Clippers want and need more from him, especially now with leading scorer Blake Griffin sidelined for up to two months by a sprained knee, Patrick Beverley out for the rest of the season because of knee surgery, and Milos Teodosic having missed most of the season with a plantar fascia injury.
Teodosic could return as soon as Saturday against the Washington Wizards or possibly Monday against the Toronto Raptors, Rivers said.
Meanwhile, Gallinari said he wants to be a better and more productive player as soon as possible.
“Hopefully, I’ll be better next game,” he said.
The Clippers didn’t practice Thursday, but will return to the court Friday to prepare for Saturday’s matinee against the Wizards at Staples Center. The Clippers will try to end a four-game losing streak that’s coincided with Griffin’s absence.
They’ll also try to win for only the fifth time in 20 games after a 4-0 start to the season.
“We, clearly, just need one more guy to score for us,” Rivers said. “We’re putting too much pressure on our two guards. They (opponents) are loading up (defensively) on both of them and, as the game…