DEANDRE JORDAN PLAYS KEY ROLE IN 4TH QUARTER

DeAndre Jordan

MINNEAPOLIS – It was evident DeAndre Jordan may have been primed for his first big night in a while Wednesday when he slipped around Minnesota’s hard-nosed center Nikola Pekovic, who in many ways is half-man, half-mountain.

Jordan spun baseline got about two steps from the rim and was bumped by the Timberwolves big man. He flipped the ball off the backboard for a layup and screamed, “And One” to no one in particular. The play gave the Clippers (34-13) an 11-point lead and somewhat resembled the way Jordan entered the season: focused, active and brimming with enough energy to power an arena.

But as the calendar turned to January and versatile forward Lamar Odom began returning to form, Jordan played fewer and fewer minutes in crunch time. Entering Wednesday night, he had appeared in just two fourth quarters in January, playing a total of 10 minutes. Two times in the last week it appeared he would get the nod late in the game, including Saturday at Portland when he was called back from the scorer’s table by Head Coach Vinny Del Negro with less than three minutes remaining.

That changed in Minneapolis with Pekovic back in the lineup for the Wolves after missing almost two weeks with a bruised quadriceps.

“I liked him on Pekovic,” Del Negro said. “I liked his length. He got us some offensive rebounds. I like him around the basket. They were kind of doubling up a little bit on Blake [Griffin] and Jamal [Crawford] and stuff, so [Jordan] around the rim can cause problems.”

He caused a litany of problems for Minnesota, around the rim and otherwise, playing 31:34 (5:46 in the fourth). A once enlivened Target Center, replete with howling wolf sounds was subdued during a 37-15 run between the second and third quarters. Much of that was due to the work of Jordan.

He scored points at the rim, including the aforementioned layup around Pekovic to cap the run and a two-handed alley-oop from Eric Bledsoe after the equally energetic young guard stole the ball from Ricky Rubio in the backcourt. He defended Pekovic, covered ground to protect the perimeter and rotate back to the paint when the Clippers loaded up defensively, and played on a pogo stick on the offensive glass.

Of his 12 rebounds, four came on the offensive end. With 1:07 to go and the Clippers clinging to a three-point lead, he snared an offensive board between Dante Cunningham and Andrei Kirilenko that ultimately led to a 3-point play from Blake Griffin. That game-saving play immediately followed a rejection of a Rubio layup that could have pulled Minnesota to within one. It was also two possessions removed from a defensive rebound in traffic that closed out a defensive stop for the Clippers.

“We had to get stops,” Jordan said. “[Pekovic] is hell down there and so we had to get stops and that won us the game.”

Del Negro agreed, saying Jordan’s work in the fourth quarter helped propel the Clippers to an opening victory in their eight-game, 14-day road trip. Jordan added 16 points, his most since Dec. 28, when like Wednesday night, he went 6-for-8 from the field and made key contributions in the final period.

“He stays ready,” Crawford said of Jordan. “On off days he’s there working. He knows he’s a huge part of this team and we all have our moments. I had one [last game]. We all have our moments. We’re all in it together.”

Jordan had another moment Wednesday, and for the first time in more than a month it came in the fourth quarter.