Timberwolves hold off Griffin-less Clippers for 113-107 win
LOS ANGELES - This was not an escape from a barrel and swimming to shore moments before heading over the falls, yet coach Tom Thibideau's unique perspective made you wonder.
The defensive guru certainly will take the Minnesota Timberwolves' 113-107 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, but a complete effort this was not.
The balanced scoring was there as all five starters reached double figures, led by Karl-Anthony Towns' 21. The clutch shots that did not fall in a defeat at Memphis on Monday were present at Staples Center.
But in a game the Timberwolves once led by as many as 19, navigating a late-game nail-biter did not supply the stern Thibodeau with much cheer.
"(The Clippers) didn't go away," Tibodeau said, praising his opponent before getting critical of his own squad. "They kept coming and because of the way they can score, you are always concerned. But overall, just finding a way to win was probably the most important thing."
If that didn't sound all that critical, consider that the question was about the Timberwolves' defense.
The Clippers, playing without injured forward Blake Griffin for the fourth consecutive game, seem to be finding a way to deliver offense without their All-Star. Lou Williams and Austin Rivers each scored 23 points, with Williams' effort coming off the bench.
DeAndre Jordan added 18 points with 21 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has lost all four games since Griffin was lost for approximately two months with a sprained left knee.
"I liked our second half effort," Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. "I didn't think we came out with a lot of defensive energy, but I thought in the second half we were better."
It really was defense that got the job done for the Timberwolves, it was apparently not done at a consistent level to keep Thibodeau happy. The Clippers had a chance to cut the deficit to three with 3:27 remaining, but Towns blocked a shot inside by Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan. The Clippers never threatened again.
Towns, who added 12 rebounds, had a different take on Minnesota's defensive effort.
"It was a good game and we played great defensively and that's what I take out of this game," Towns said. "We did a good job defensively of sticking to our gameplan and making them take hard, contested shots."
It was the Timberwolves' second victory over Los Angeles in a span of four days, having defeated their Western Conference foe Sunday at Minneapolis.
Minnesota's Jimmy Butler, who scored a season-high 33 points against the Clippers on Sunday, added 19 more in Wednesday's rematch. Jeff Teague also scored 19, while Andrew Wiggins and Taj Gibson scoring 16 apiece, with Gibson collecting 14 of those in the first half. Gibson also had 14 rebounds.
"We didn't make our 3s in Memphis and we got into a good rhythm (Wednesday) out of the passes that were coming out," Thibodeau said. "The most important thing is that we were making the right play ad if you make the right pay, that's all you can ask."
It was a bit of fortuitous scheduling for the Timberwolves that they faced the Clippers twice this week after Griffin was injured. They had lost five of seven games before winning Sunday, and then saw Memphis end its 11-game losing streak at their expense.
Yet neither victory over the Clippers came easy for the Timberwolves. On Sunday, the Clippers pulled within four in the final minute before losing 112-106. Towns' defense saved Sunday's triumph.
Not only were the Clippers without Griffin, they also were without guard Patrick Beverley, who is lost for the season after knee surgery. Guard Milos Teodosic has been out since the second game of the season with a foot injury, but could return as early as next week.
Los Angeles forward Danilo Gallinari played his first game since Nov. 5 as he missed 13 contests with a strained left hip. He started and scored five points on 2-of-13 shooting, with two rebounds in 25 minutes.
"I wanted to be better," Gallinari said. "I didn't expect to shoot the ball that bad. I was expecting myself to be better already, but I wasn't. Hopefully I will be better next game."