FINAL | April 10, 2013 | Staples Center | Los Angeles, CA

Minnesota Timberwolves Logo

20

26

26

23

95

Los Angeles Clippers Logo

26

32

30

23

111

 

Eric Patten

LOS ANGELES – In some ways it was like the Clippers of a few months ago, riding a multi-game winning streak the starters turn over a large lead to the bench in the fourth quarter and never look back.

The only difference was that when an 18-point lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves dwindled to 13 in the fourth quarter, Blake Griffin walked to the scorer’s table. He never checked in, though, and the Clippers cruised to a 111-95 victory Wednesday night at Staples Center for their third consecutive win.

It was also the 31st home win by the Clippers (52-26), establishing a new franchise record, and helped them remain a game behind the Memphis Grizzlies (53-25) for home court advantage in the first round of next week’s playoffs.

“It’s very important,” Chris Paul said of the importance of attaining home court. “During the regular season, you have to build some type of identity on the road. Even with home court advantage you need to win a game on the road. We understand with the seeding right now, at some point, we’re not going to have home court advantage.

“We’d love to play here as much as possible, but I think we have a team where it really doesn’t matter.”

 

The Grizzlies and Clippers meet in what could be a decisive game Saturday in Memphis, but both teams have to take care of their preceding schedules before that. The Clippers did so Wednesday, racing out to a 10-2 lead and riding near triple-doubles from their superstar tandem of Griffin and Paul.

 

Griffin finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, while Paul had 19 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and four steals.

“It definitely starts with me and Blake on the offensive end and the defensive end,” Paul said. “When me and him are on the same page, everybody else has no choice but to fall in line. Me and Blake realized we’ve got to bring the energy every night and everybody else is going to feed off of it.”

Seven Clippers scored in double-figures against Minnesota (29-49), including 14 from Matt Barnes and 11 from Jamal Crawford off the bench.

And it was the reserves that helped keep Paul and Griffin on the bench in the final period. When Minnesota looked like they had one final push in them, Barnes and Crawford alternated baskets on four straight possessions and propelled L.A. to a 100-81 lead.

Griffin had already retreated to the bench during a Timberwolves timeout after squatting in front the scorer’s table for more than a minute of game action and after Crawford’s 3-pointer from the left wing Paul walked a couple of steps toward the court, nodding and clenching his fist.

Paul played a team-high 31 minutes, while Griffin played 29.


While the bench preserved the double-digit lead in the fourth, it was predominantly the starters who got them there. Willie Green matched his season-high with 15 points and continued his incredible stretch of 3-point shooting, connecting on all three shots from beyond the arc Wednesday and extending his run over the last month to 20 of his last 29.

He had 11 points in the third quarter, when the Clippers turned around a three-point game at the 6:30 mark with a 19-6 run to close the period.

“When [the starters] have it going we try to feed off it and vice versa,” Crawford said. “Tonight, they really had it going and in the third quarter when it got close I thought Willie [Green] was key. I thought Caron [Butler] hit some big shots and C.P. (Paul) had some timely baskets.”

Paul had timely baskets throughout the night, particularly after Griffin’s barometer-setting 17 first-half points.

Even after the Timberwolves closed within two points on a 3-pointer by J.J. Barea the game hardly felt in jeopardy in the second quarter. The Clippers went on a 16-6 spurt that included back-to-back breakaway dunks by Griffin and five points in the final 30 seconds. DeAndre Jordan followed a Green miss with a two-handed put-back dunk and Paul, after snaring the ball from Barea, raced to the other end to knock down a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 58-46 with 0.5 seconds to go.

Nikola Pekovic was Griffin’s equal early on. The third-year big man from Montenegro scored 15 of his game-high 20 points on 5-of-8 shooting and made five of Minnesota’s 15 first-half free throws. But Pekovic’s effort was hardly enough, thanks to a 57.1% shooting night from the Clippers.

“We shot it well,” Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. “We got a lot of production from a lot of guys.”

The Clippers had 34 assists on 44 made field goals, 11 3-pointers, and out-rebounded Minnesota 48-38 with 13 boards coming in 18 minutes from Lamar Odom. Most of all, though, the Clippers were back to the breakneck tempo that characterized them in the earlier stages of the season.

“I think it was all about our pace, too, our tempo,” Paul said. “We played really fast, got out in transition and we were pretty efficient.”

Barnes agreed.

“We’re playing with the same effort that we started the season with,” he said. “We’re starting to get our sense of urgency back and it’s starting to show.”

NOTES

The Clippers held Minnesota to 38.9% shooting. They are 27-0 when holding an opponent to 42.0% or worse this season… Ryan Hollins was presented with the Kia Motors Community Service Award at halftime… It was the 37thh double-digit win of the year for the Clippers (second in the NBA to Oklahoma City)… Crawford made three 3-pointers moving within eight makes of tying Rasual Butler’s franchise record for 3-pointers in a single season (145)… Second-year forward had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. Remarkably, they are winless in Williams’ career when he records a double-double (0-10)…

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