Wolves' comeback falls just short against Clippers
By Vince Bonsignore, The Sports Xchange
LOS ANGELES -- Despite repeatedly surging ahead of the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, the Los Angeles Clippers couldn't quite shake the visitors.
Then came a two-minute, fourth-quarter flurry by the Clippers that created just enough cushion to hold off Minnesota for a 109-107 victory at sold-out Staples Center.
The key was a 12-0 Clippers run in the fourth quarter that turned a one-point deficit into an 11-point lead. Still, the Timberwolves remained in the argument until the buzzer. Minnesota missed three shots over the last six seconds in the final possession of the game -- including a missed tip-in by forward Kevin Love at the buzzer.
"We got lucky there at the end," Clippers forward Blake Griffin said.
Love walked off the court stunned.
"It's a shot I make 99 out of 100 times," he said.
Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio said, "I thought it was going in."
But it didn't, and so ended the last-gasp effort by Minnesota, which fought back from 11 points down in the second quarter and six points down in the third, then nearly completed another comeback over the final six minutes of the fourth.
However, trailing by two points, the Timberwolves could not convert on jumpers by guard Kevin Martin and center Nikola Pekovic, and Love's rebound tip at the rim didn't fall as time expired.
"My natural instinct was to try and rush it up there," Love said, "but it sat on the rim. Like I said, 99 out of 100 times that goes in. That was my bad."
The Clippers were just happy to escape with the win.
"We were fortunate," Griffin said.
Point guard Chris Paul finished with 21 points and 11 assists for the Clippers, and Griffin added 25 points and 10 rebounds, including two free throws with 44.8 seconds remaining to put Los Angeles ahead 109-105.
Los Angeles' Jamal Crawford scored 18 points off the bench -- including a 51-footer at the buzzer to end the third quarter.
"Once that shot went in, it's like it clicked him on," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Crawford's shot, a catalyst for the guard's 10-point fourth quarter.
The Clippers (5-3) won their second game in a row.
"For the most part, we did a pretty good job and dug in when we needed and made stops," Griffin said.
Martin had 30 points for the Timberwolves (5-3), who were playing in Los Angeles for the second straight night after beating the Lakers on Sunday. Love had 23 points and 19 rebounds, and Pekovic added 25 points and 10 rebounds.
"I think we did a great job," said Rubio, who followed his triple-double against the Lakers with a five-point, 10-assist, one-rebound game Monday. "We missed an easy look at the end, but I think we fought all the way through, and that's great."
The Clippers led by 11 points with 3:25 remaining in the first half, but a 16-6 run by the Timberwolves cut the margin to 59-58 at halftime.
It was a disappointing finish in an otherwise solid half for the Clippers, who hit 58.7 percent for their field goals (27 of 46) to the Wolves' 23-of-48 shooting (47.9 percent) and outrebounded Minnesota 20-19.
On the night, Los Angeles hit 55 percent (44 of 80), while Minnesota made 41.7 percent of its shots (40 of 96). The Timberwolves ended up with an 45-43 rebounding edge.
NOTES: F Matt Barnes was back in the Clippers' lineup after missing the previous three games with a thigh contusion. He finished with nine points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Barnes injured the thigh Nov. 4 when he was kneed by Houston C Greg Smith in the first half of the Clippers' 137-118 win over the Rockets. ... Among the aspects Clippers coach Doc Rivers hopes to improve with his new team is body language, an issue he detected while reviewing tape of the team from last season and noticing the liveliness during good times and frustration during trying moments. ... The 12 points, 14 assists, 10 rebounds and five steals PG Ricky Rubio had against the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday marked the second time in franchise history a Minnesota player reached double figures in points, assists and rebounds and had five or more steals. F Kevin Garnett had 22 points, 15 rebounds, 10 assists and seven steals in a 1999 game against the Atlanta Hawks.