PLAYA VISTA – A day after playing his first game in a week, Clippers forward Matt Barnes said he’s still sore.

“I think it’s a good sore,” Barnes explained before Tuesday’s practice. “I’ve been doing too much watching lately. I told Doc yesterday after I worked out that I was going to try to go and fortunately I was able to keep my thigh loose the whole game and I felt fine.”

Barnes sat out three games with a right thigh contusion. He hoped to play Saturday in Houston, but was held out until Monday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center. Prior to the game, he underwent a form of acupuncture therapy called cupping, which helps mobilize blood flow and aid the healing process.

“They cup your skin and suck all the nasty blood that’s stuck in the problem area,” Barnes said. “It felt like it really took a lot of pressure off of my thigh and I was able to finally bend my leg after four or five days.”

Barnes sustained the injury in the second quarter Nov. 4 when Rockets forward Greg Smith kneed him in the thigh on drive to the basket. Barnes immediately started limping but remained in the game. He sat out the duration of the Clippers’ three-game road trip before returning Monday.

The thigh injury was the third in a series of injury setbacks for Barnes, who nursed a sore quad in the offseason and sat out seven preseason games with a sore left calf. The 11-year veteran said he is still working to get back into a rhythm, but thinks it won’t take long to fit into a system he has played in less than any other member of the rotation.

“I think it’s just going to be timing,” Barnes said. “I don’t think it will take too long because I’ve been able to watch and see where we’re deficient and see where my strengths fall into those categories.”


It’s probably no coincidence, then, that the Clippers (5-3) held an opponent to less than 42-percent shooting for the first time this season with the defensive-minded Barnes back in the lineup. His return also boosted the bench, which outscored the Timberwolves, 40-17. Barnes had nine points, eight rebounds and three assists and after a couple of turnovers 22 seconds after he checked into the game, exuded the same chemistry he had with fellow reserve Jamal Crawford last season.

“He’s always cutting at the right moment,” Crawford said. “So, I can always get him easy baskets and get him going. He keeps the defense honest because they can’t all key in on me.”

Two of Barnes’ three field goals came off assists from Crawford. In 2012-13, their first year playing together, Crawford assisted on 50 of Barnes’ 312 field goals, more than any other Clippers player besides Chris Paul.

Asked what having Barnes back meant to the bench in general, Crawford said, “[He gave us] everything he gave us last year: slashing, cutting, guarding Kevin Martin. He does all of the little things that don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet and that’s why Matt is a winning piece on any team. And we love having him back.”