Game #13
STAPLES Center | Los Angeles, CA
January 20, 2012 | 7:30 PM (PST)
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TEAM 1 2 3 4 FINAL
22 26 24 29 101
31 28 20 19 98

Clippers Wane in Waning Moments Again in Loss to Timberwolves
-Ryan Menezes

Two nights after pulling off a fine escape act, the Clippers were hoodwinked and left stunned at the final buzzer.

Their inability to hold a lead, one that was as much as 15 over the Minnesota Timberwolves, was what ultimately came back to bite them. That problem has been a recurring one since floor leader Chris Paul went down due to injury.

In three of the four games played this week without Paul, the Clippers have blown leads in the fourth quarter. They were able to outlast the Nets and steal a win from the Mavericks at the very last second, but couldn’t replicate the feat Friday night.

“It's happened several times in a row now,” Blake Griffin said. “We've got to do a better job of making sure we maintain our lead and execute down the stretch.”

A 3-pointer at the buzzer by Minnesota’s Kevin Love was the play that the game will ultimately be judged upon. But Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro wasn’t dwelling on the game-winner.

“That wasn't the game,” Del Negro adamantly said of the final play. “The game was us turning the ball over, us having opportunities to go up eight, 10, 12 and trying to make home-run plays all the time.”

Del Negro was able to find plenty of faults in the Clippers’ late-game play, but he couldn’t avoid an unforced error that instantly swung the momentum in the game.

Mo Williams, once again hot off the bench in his second game back from a foot injury, was ejected with 6:21 to play in the game and the Clippers clinging to a four-point lead. He maintained that he didn’t say anything to get ejected and thought he was being careful with one technical already to his name.

Williams was working on what could have been his finest performance of the season, shooting 10-of-15 from the field with 25 points, one short of his season-high, before he got tossed. The Clippers’ sharpest shooter on the night headed back to the locker room and had to watch on a television as his teammates lost the lead.

“I felt like I could have made a difference in the game,” Williams said. “It's tough to know you can't do anything about it. You can't even be out there to see what you see and help out that way.”

Williams watched from afar as Ricky Rubio took advantage of the Clippers’ faltering defense.

After going scoreless for the first three quarters, the 21-year-old rookie point guard scored all nine of his points in the fourth, including a 3-pointer that to tie at it that was his only field goal on a one-for-11 shooting night.

Even before his clutch shot, Rubio wreaked havoc on the Clippers’ pick-and-roll defense. On two consecutive fourth-quarter possessions Rubio took a Darko Milicic screen and found his 7-foot center cutting to the basket. The second came on a nifty behind-the-back dish to Milicic that made it a 96-94 game.

“(Rubio) was penetrating and causing problems for us,” Del Negro said. “He's clever with the basketball. He was getting in the lane on us, turning the corner on the elbow pick and roll, and we were slow rotating from the weak side. His penetration hurt us more than anything, even though he was missing shots.

“The penetration hurt, but just us being not able to lock in and finish the game out is the tough part.”

In the end, the Clippers saw their 12-point fourth-quarter lead vanish. The Timberwolves largest lead of the night was three points, the final margin, reached by virtue of Love’s buzzer beater.

“At the end of the game, you've got to react quicker,” Ryan Gomes said. “Our reaction time was a split second off. 1.5 seconds, it was just that much of a lapse that gave him the opportunity for the shot.”

LOS ANGELES–The Clippers gave Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves one too many chances.

After failing to build on a 12-point fourth quarter lead and squandering possessions down the stretch, the Clippers gave up a straightaway 3-pointer at the buzzer to Love and the young Timberwolves escaped Staples Center with a 101-98 victory.

Love received the inbound pass from guard Luke Ridnour and after coming around a double-screen that squeezed center DeAndre Jordan out of the play, the All-Star forward was free for the winning shot.

“On that play I knew I was going to have a chance to get an open shot and win the game,” Love said. “Luke hit me with a good pass. I think it was Ricky [Rubio] and Wayne [Ellington], they made a good screen. And I made a good shot, so it was a well-executed play.”

Love finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds, while fellow All-Star Blake Griffin had 21 points and 10 rebounds. Chauncey Billups added 21, including 3-of-6 from 3-point range, and Mo Williams scored a game-high 25 points with five assists off the bench.

But it wasn’t Love’s shot that decided the game, according to Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro.

“That wasn’t the game,” Del Negro said. “The game was us turning the ball over; us having opportunities to go up eight, 10, 12 and trying to make home-run plays all the time; us not executing when we needed to on offense; giving them too many pick and roll coverages where they’re getting to the basket.”

The Clippers (8-5) lost for the first time at home since the opener Dec. 30, 2011, breaking a streak of seven in a row. They played without point guard Chris Paul (strained left hamstring) for the fourth straight game and were also without small forward Caron Butler (hyper-extended right knee).

For the second time in as many games, Williams started off 7-of-7 from the field, helping the Clippers to a 15-point second quarter advantage. But he was ejected with 6:21 in the fourth after receiving his second technical foul, which somewhat aided Minnesota’s comeback.

The Clippers, who held a 59-48 lead at halftime, committed 10 of their 18 turnovers in the second half and managed just 38.2% shooting. They went 46.5% from the field for the game and made 11-of-21 3-pointers.

“We’ve got to do a better job of making sure we maintain our lead and executing down the stretch,” Griffin said.

Jordan, who had 11 rebounds and three blocked shots, concurred. “We didn’t finish,” Jordan said. “We didn’t finish like we’re supposed to.”


Billups passed Peja Stojakovic for fourth all-time in 3-pointers made. He now has 1,762 career makes, 47 behind third place Jason Kidd… Early in the fourth quarter reserve big man Solomon Jones converted an and-one play for his first field goal as a Clipper… Darko Milicic, who guarded Griffin most of the night, scored 22 points, one off his career high… Ryan Gomes, who started in place of Butler, scored a season-high 11 points and had six rebounds.

More: Rough Final Stretch Compounded by Williams Ejection

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