Love's Big Night Helps Wolves Stay Perfect Against Clippers
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Paul, one of the game’s elite, is an 85 percent career free-throw shooter. The Timberwolves’ bench put all their power into willing a miss.
“We were really just talking, trying to jinx him,” forward Wes Johnson said. “Knowing he’s one of the premier players in the NBA, we were just hoping he would miss.”
He did. Paul’s third free throw rimmed out, Ricky Rubio pulled down the rebound and the Timberwolves held on for a 95-94 win in front of 19,509 at Target Center. The win improves Minnesota to 3-0 on the year against the Clippers--who entered the game as the Pacific Division leaders--and gave the Wolves their 20th win of the year.
But Monday’s victory was much more a Timberwolves’ win than a Clippers’ loss. Forward Kevin Love dominated while on the court, scoring 39 points and adding 17 rebounds in more than 42 minutes of play. He willed the Timberwolves to victory with five 3-pointers and putting on individual scoring runs that put Minnesota in control.
With the Wolves down 8-2 to start the game, Love scored the next 11 points to give Minnesota a 13-8 lead early in the first. And he scored eight of the team’s final 10 points to close out the game, highlighted by a driving lay-up with 43.4 seconds left to give Minnesota a 95-90 lead.
“He was very active,” coach Rick Adelman said. “They lost him a few times when he got the 3s. That really set the tone for the game.”
Minnesota (20-19) ballooned its first half lead to 15 points on a pair of free throws by Derrick Williams, but the Clippers chipped away and cut the lead to 45-44 at halftime. Los Angeles (22-14) briefly had a one-point lead early in the third and tied the game twice—once at 55-55 and another time at 57-57—but the Wolves took control and never trailed again.
But late in the fourth, L.A. put together a fierce comeback attempt. Guard Mo Williams put together a 10-point fourth quarter and Paul added eight of his own. Paul hit two free throws to cut the lead to 95-92, and after a miss by Wolves guard JJ Barea, Paul was fouled on a 3-point attempt that sent him to the line with a chance to tie.
In the end, it was Minnesota that came out on top.
Rubio finished with six assists, and Martell Webster added nine points.
“We had a lot of guys tonight that did a lot of things,” Love said. “It wasn’t just me. I believe in my team and I believe that they’re going to step up.”
Blake Griffin finished with 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, while Chris Paul added 18 points and five assists. Mo Williams had 19 points off the bench.
The Wolves have an off day Tuesday before hosting divisional rival Portland on Wednesday at Target Center. Monday’s win opened up the team’s four-game homestand in style, and the Wolves hope to keep that momentum going throughout the week.
“This homestand is really huge for us, coming home and playing especially against good teams and back to back at the end,” Adelman said. “We have to win these games. We have to find a way, and we found a way tonight.”
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