FINAL | January 17, 2013 | TARGET CENTER, Minnesota, MN  

Clippers

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ERIC PATTEN 

MINNEAPOLIS – The Clippers battled turnovers, missed free throws and at times what seemed like overall road weariness. Still, they managed to come away with their 13th victory away from home.

Their 90-77 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Target Center Thursday capped an undefeated three-game road trip and moved the Clippers to within a half game of the Oklahoma City Thunder for the league’s best record.

The Clippers (31-9) beat the Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, and Timberwolves by an average of 14.6 points per game and did so without point guard Chris Paul, who missed his third consecutive game with a bone bruise in his right kneecap.

“It’s great for us to have a sloppy, pretty much a bad game for us, and still get a win and still finish out the road trip 3-0,” Blake Griffin said. “We needed these three wins, especially with C.P. (Paul) out.”

On Thursday they committed 18 turnovers and went 15-for-23 from the foul line, but shut down the Timberwolves (16-20) in the fourth quarter and used a 3-pointer by Jamal Crawford and dunk by Griffin to take a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to go.

“Our turnovers were a problem, but we held them down offensively which was a big key for us,” Vinny Del Negro said. “Because of our turnovers we never got into a good offensive flow or put any kind of pressure on them. Early in the game, they were controlling the glass on us with some offensive rebounds. But once we locked in, especially in that fourth quarter we picked it up.”

Crawford scored a game-high 22 points in his bid to become the third Clippers representative at the All-Star game in Houston next month. Griffin, who had 20 points and four rebounds, and Paul were both elected All-Star starters earlier in the day.

It was the fifth loss in a row for the Timberwolves, who have coached in the interim by Terry Porter as Head Coach Rick Adelman cares for his ailing wife.

Moment of Truth: The fourth quarter. Minnesota struggled shooting the ball through the night, in some ways looking like they were the team playing their third road game in four days. But as Del Negro alluded to, turnovers and trouble on the defensive glass prevented the Clippers from taking a comfortable lead. That changed in the fourth.

With the Target Center crowd finally energized after a strong close to the third quarter brought the Timberwolves to within five, Matt Barnes silenced them with an offensive rebound and put-back layup that started a methodical 18-8 run where the Clippers held Minnesota to two field goals.

“Once we were able to get [defensive stops] we were able to get out in transition and get easier baskets,” Crawford said. “When we do that we’re at our best and that’s what kind of broke the game open. It wasn’t a pretty game by any means. We turned the ball over way too much, but we were able to bounce back and get stops.”

Difference Maker: Ronny Turiaf. The energetic forward/center provided an expected scoring boost, making all five of his shots and scoring 11 points. It was the first game with double-figures in scoring for Turiaf since March 21, 2011.

“I’m just playing my game,” Turiaf said. “I mean, me and Lamar [Odom] we could play together with our eyes closed. It’s easy. I play off him real easy and vice versa. Today I was fortunate and my teammates passed me the ball. My job easy, if I get the ball down in the paint I’m going to dunk it. I’m either going to dunk it or score.”

But it was not just his scoring, which included three dunks. Turiaf rejected a shot by Dante Cunningham, found Crawford for an alley-oop layup on the next possession, grabbed two rebounds and contributed several moments of levity, including an air-ball on a free throw that fell about 2 feet short of the rim and ended with his “Turiaf twirl.”

Griffin was asked if it was the most times in a single game his braided teammate has twirled his index finger in the air above his head. “I think that’s close to a record. But you know what’s funny? Even after he air-balled his free throw he still did it, so it’s not something he only does after good things. He’s probably the only guy in the league that can do that.”

Stat Line of the Night: Odom had just two points, but arguably had as much of an impact on the game as anyone. He battled with 290-pound center Nikola Pekovic, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out a season-high six assists.

“He’s a winner,” Del Negro said. “He doesn’t care [about numbers]. He was 1-for-2, 12 rebounds, six assists. He makes all the easy plays for us, especially against the zone you put at that elbow with Blake roaming the baseline. They’ve got to make a decision on things with Jamal and Matt and different guys out there. His experience and his leadership out there is a big catalyst for us.”

More Stats: 

Crawford. He led the team in scoring for the second-straight night, scoring 22 points on 7-of-17 shooting, although he uncharacteristically missed three of his eight free throws. Crawford also had three assists, two rebounds and two steals.

“All these guys have wanted me to be me from day one,” Crawford said. “We have pros. We have guys with bodies of work, everybody. I think everybody’s comfortable and we understand the bigger picture. Everybody has a role to play and my role is to score and try to make stuff happen and I try to do it every day.”

Griffin. He was effective on the block, especially matched up with the smaller Derrick Williams, who started, and Cunningham. His 20 points came on 9-for-19 shooting. Griffin also had four rebounds and two assists and converted a pair of foul shots. He has made 16 of his last 19 from the line.

Luke Ridnour. The point guard turned shooting guard had a season-best scoring performance, pouring in 21 points on his usual array of floaters, 3-pointers and pull-up jumpers. Ridnour kept the Timberwolves afloat for much of the night, adding five assists and four rebounds.  

Hot: Willie Green. On a night when most everyone on the court had trouble finding their range at times, Green picked up right where he left off two nights ago in Houston. He had eight points, making three of his four shots and both of his 3-pointers. He’s scored 23 points combined in the last two games.

Not: Pekovic. He was 1-for-8 and missed all five of his shots in the first quarter, with some coming within a few feet of the rim. To make matters worse, the big-bodied center sustained a right quadriceps contusion in the third quarter after a collision with Griffin and did not return.

Quotables:

On the Clippers’ offense:

Del Negro: “Most of the second half [the Timberwolves] were in zone. I thought we took a few too many jump shots when we were in the penalty. They got on the break on us and got some fast-break points. We’ve got to do a better job recognizing when we’re in the penalty, get to the free throw line more and control tempo better.”

On contributions from the entire roster:

Griffin: “It’s been like that this whole trip. It’s been a lot of guys. It’s been guys off the bench. It’s been some starters. It’s been all over. So, it’s promising for us and good for us to get that experience.”

On difference between benches:

Porter: "We don't have the depth and we don't have the size. Even when they go to the second unit that they have, Grant Hill and Matt Barnes. They have a strong defender and they got one of the best sixth men in the league in Jamal Crawford. He is in a good groove and a really good rhythm and we just didn't do anything to disturb his groove tonight. He got some good looks but I thought all and all we hurt them a little bit with the zone and we hurt them with some different defensive things we tried to throw at them.”

Notes: The Clippers were up 27-22 at the end of the first period. They are now 24-2 when leading after the opening 12 minutes. Their .923 winning percentage in those games is second to the Golden State Warriors for tops in the league… Ricky Rubio made his first start since tearing his ACL last season. He returned Dec. 15 but had been coming off the bench until Thursday. He finished with four points and six assists… The Clippers moved to 6-3 in nine regular-season games without Paul in the lineup… Down 42-30, Minnesota went on an 11-2 run. The Clippers made three baskets over the final 6:52 of the second quarter, a dunk by Griffin sandwiched between Crawford 3-pointers that came more than six minutes apart... The Clippers' bench scored 45 of the team's 90 points. 

 

 

 

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