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Paul leads Clippers to victory over Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio (9) dribbles past Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul (3) during the third quarter at Target Center. The Clippers defeated the Timberwolves 102-98. Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The Sports Xchange

Timberwolves 98  Clippers 102

MINNEAPOLIS -- They say the NBA is a game of scoring runs and nothing demonstrates that more than the Los Angeles Clippers' 102-98 victory at the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.

And in a game wildly filled with them, the run that mattered most was Clippers All-Star point guard Chris Paul's fourth-quarter one. That's when he scored 16 of his 20 points, including 12 consecutively for his team down the stretch after nearly four games when it felt to him like he couldn't make a shot.

The Clippers (8-4) scored the game's first 12 points and yet were tied at 24 after one quarter. In the second quarter, every point each team scored was on an unanswered run.

The only sense of normalcy on Wednesday night was Paul's fourth-quarter performance, when once again he willed his team to win after he made just two of nine shots and scored just four points through three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, he made six of seven shots, including two important 3-pointers.

"I guess it's sad, but we're just kind of used to it now," teammate Blake Griffin said of Paul's fourth-quarter, game-saving play. "It's something we rely on every game. It's like you can always count on him. No matter how he's played through three quarters, he's going to come up and make big plays, whether it's assists, steals, scoring. Whatever it is, he does that for us."

Until Wednesday's fourth quarter, Paul said he wondered if he'd ever make another shot. He went 13-for-41 in his previous game and then started Wednesday 2-for-9 until Clippers coach Doc Rivers asked him what he was waiting for before sending him back into the game for the final seven minutes.

He made a trey soon thereafter and off he went, repelling the Wolves with a jump shot, a 3-pointer and a 3-point play when the Wolves chopped an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit down to a point or two.

"Finally, I saw the ball go through the net," Paul said. "It's frustrating. I've honestly never been through a spurt like this in my career where I can't make a shot. My teammates, they're the ones encouraging me, telling me to shoot it and I'm going to shoot it, too, because I can make those shots. It's just cool to see the ball go through the net."

Paul's fourth-quarter play allowed the Clippers to finally push the Wolves (7-6) away just nine days after they had beaten Minnesota in Los Angeles in a game in which the visitors had three shots to tie the game at the end.

This time, Paul was unstoppable in the final minutes. This time, Griffin and the Clippers were focused on Wolves All-Star forward Kevin Love and his 3-point shot and they limited him to a 2-for-14 shooting night that included an 0-for-3 game with 3-point attempts.

"Paul just took over in the fourth quarter," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "He kept the ball, kept attacking. It was hard to control him. We had all the plans that look good on paper, but didn't go as well on the court."

Paul's 20-point, 11-assist game surpasses Magic Johnson's season-starting, 11-game stretch of double-double points and assists games in 1990. Paul now has done the same in 12 consecutive games to start this season.

Somebody asked Rivers after the game about Paul's "record" to start a season.

"Half these records are made up records from Elias (Sports Bureau), whoever knew that was a record," Rivers said. "(Boston guard Rajon) Rondo had one last year: I don't even remember what it was, some assist record. Who comes up with that stuff? What it does say record or not, when the only other name is Magic Johnson, that's pretty special company. I'll say that."

In a game filled with alternating 10-0, 9-0, 12-0 runs, the one that mattered most was Paul's fourth-quarter play and his 12 consecutive points scored for the Clippers.

"It was Disneyland, that's how you felt," Rivers said. "You were on this rollercoaster. It was strange."

NOTES: The Clippers played without reserve F Matt Barnes, who sustained an eye injury in Monday's home loss to Memphis when he got struck by Grizzlies star Zach Randolph. ... Timberwolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad did not suit up for his fourth consecutive game because of a sprained ankle. He has played very little even when he has been healthy. ... The Clippers entered the game ranked first in the league in scoring (109.3 ppg), third in field-goal percentage (.478) and assists (25.8 per game) and eighth in steals (9.18). The Timberwolves ranked third in points with a 107.8 average. ... Timberwolves F Derrick Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, was in for 11 minutes after he had played just three minutes in the last three games. ... Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman has turned to rookie F Robbie Hummel as his top sub at small forward. "I'm just playing the people I think can win games," Adelman said. "Nothing about Derrick."