Clippers rally to force OT, edge Wolves
By Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 116 Los Angeles 120
LOS ANGELES -- Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love didn't mince his words.
"We blew it," Love said.
Despite 45 points and 19 rebounds from Love, the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to a earn 120-116 overtime victory over the Timberwolves in a sometimes testy affair Sunday night at Staples Center.
Los Angeles point guard Chris Paul made five free throws in the final 20 seconds of overtime to seal the win.
Paul, who finished with 19 points and 13 assists, also forced a turnover by Minnesota guard Kevin Martin that led to the extra session.
"I think the biggest thing we've learned as a team from Doc (Rivers), and it's great that it came (to) fruition tonight, is even in practice, he always talks about the game is not over," Paul said of his team's new coach. "When we got down three or four, with seconds left, we could have said, 'We lost this one. We fought hard.' But we found a way."
Forward Blake Griffin led Los Angeles with 32 points. He also had 10 rebounds and four steals before fouling out in overtime. Guard Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, and reserve guard Darren Collison had 18 points for the Clippers (20-9).
Los Angeles earned its fifth win in a row, while Minnesota (13-15) dropped its second consecutive game.
Center Nikola Pekovic added a career-high 34 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who lost to the Clippers for the eighth consecutive time.
"The good thing about the NBA is there is another game the next day, the day after that, but we get a little break, rest our legs, come back and hopefully we'll take stuff a little more seriously," said Love, who connected on 15 of 23 field-goal attempts.
The Clippers forced overtime after Paul's steal from Martin led to a dunk by Crawford with 7.7 seconds left. Pekovic missed two shots that prevented Minnesota from winning in regulation.
"We just played so hard for something like that to go down," said Martin, who finished with 16 points, four assists and six turnovers. "But we'll bounce back."
Forward Jared Dudley, who scored 15 points, hit a 3-pointer with 38 seconds in overtime to give the Clippers the lead for good at 115-114. Paul sealed the win by hitting five of six foul shots after that.
Griffin's basket pulled the Clippers to within 105-102 with 26 seconds left in regulation. Love hit a free throw to increase the lead to 106-102 with 18 seconds remaining, but Crawford scored on a drive to slice the Clippers' deficit to 106-104 with 13.2 seconds remaining, setting up the crucial steal by Paul.
"I just kept saying in the huddle regardless of all the stuff going on, let's just win the game," Paul said.
The game turned in Minnesota's favor in the third quarter. Referee Marc Davis tossed Matt Barnes after the Los Angeles forward was penalized for a flagrant-2 foul on Love with 56.8 seconds remaining in the third. Initially, Barnes was called for a flagrant-1 after a hard foul on Love during a drive to the bucket, but following a review, the call was changed to a flagrant-2, and Barnes was ejected.
Barnes could face further discipline from the NBA for arguing with Davis after the fact and failing to immediately leave the court.
The incident sparked the Timberwolves, who trailed for much of the contest. Love's two free throws tied the score at 77 before the former UCLA star followed it up with a 3-pointer for an 80-77 Minnesota lead with 51.3 seconds left in the quarter.
Two free throws by Minnesota forward Dante Cunningham pushed the lead to five before Los Angeles forward Willie Green nailed a 3-pointer to cut the margin to 82-80 with 15.1 seconds to go in the third.
Reserve guard J.J. Barea's 3-pointer gave the Timberwolves an 85-80 advantage with 3.7 seconds remaining in the period, but Crawford answered with a deep trey several feet behind the arc at the horn, cutting Minnesota's lead to 85-83 heading into the fourth.
NOTES: Minnesota F Chase Budinger practiced for the first time Saturday since undergoing surgery (a meniscectomy) on his left knee Oct. 1. "He's doing fine," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. "I watched him in the three-on-three (drills) that we have. He's not afraid to put the ball down, take it to the basket." Adelman said the club would evaluate Budinger during the next two weeks and decide when he can return. ... The Clippers held each of their previous four opponents under 100 points, winning all four games. "Last night was one of our better nights (defensively)," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, referring to Saturday's 112-91 rout of the Denver Nuggets. ... Minnesota will get a four-day break before hosting the Washington Wizards on Friday. ... The Clippers visit the Golden State Warriors in the nightcap of the NBA's Christmas Day lineup. ... The game drew a sellout crowd of 19,304.
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