The first three quarters belonged to the Los Angeles Clippers. In the NBA, though, it’s all about what you do in the final quarter and that time belonged to super subs Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley.
They each scored 27 points, teaming up to lead a shooting barrage as the Minnesota Timberwolves won 109-97 Tuesday night in the teams’ first game since the All-Star break.
Williams and Beasley contributed mightily to the Wolves’ reserves scoring 72 points — best in the NBA this season and two points off the franchise record.
”When you get it going like that, it’s close your eyes and throw the ball in the hoop,” the Clippers’ Chris Paul said. ”They made open shots and they made tough shots. When you put that combination together, it’s not good for the other team.”
Williams and Beasley each had 13 points in the fourth. Williams finished the game 9 of 10 from the field, while making all four of his 3-point attempts and all five of his free throws. Beasley’s shooting was just off that, with him hitting 11 of 15 from the field, all three of his 3-pointers and 2 of 4 free throws. They each had five rebounds.
”We were knocking down open shots, taking what the defense gave us and just letting the ball flow,” Beasley said. ”We did a lot of penetrating and kicking out. Those guys like to block shots, so when you’ve got two or three guys going after one block, that means you have two guys open for jump shots. It’s kind of hard to go from the rim back out to the perimeter and contest those shots.”
Nikola Pekovic added 12 points, Martell Webster 11 and Kevin Love 10 for the Wolves, who notched the franchise’s 47th win against the Clippers, its most against any opponent.
Love, the 3-point champion during All-Star weekend, took a shot to the ribs in the third quarter and briefly left the court. He returned to the bench about 5 minutes into the fourth wearing a padded shirt. Coach Rick Adelman said Love could have played, but he wasn’t needed.
”DeAndre Jordan hit me twice on the same play and in the same spot, but I just got it X-rayed and everything seems to be fine,” Love said. ”It’s going to have a lot of bruising and some inflammation, but hopefully I’ll be good to go for tomorrow.”
Blake Griffin scored 30 points, Paul added 27 and Jordan had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Clippers, who similarly faltered in the fourth quarter of a 101-98 home loss to the Wolves on Jan. 20. The loss narrowed the Clippers’ Pacific Division lead to a game over the Los Angeles Lakers.
”We’ll see what we’re made of now,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. ”We have a tough road trip coming up. We’re going to have to play on a higher level, especially on the road now, but maybe that will help us come together more.”
The Clippers led virtually all of the first three quarters and were up 76-73 going into the fourth.
”Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams hit tough shots and they hit a lot in a row,” Griffin said. ”We couldn’t get our shots.”
The Wolves made their first 10 field goals of the fourth after hitting their final three in the third.
Williams caught fire, opening with a 3-pointer and then scoring 10 in a row to put the Wolves ahead 90-82. During his torrid stretch, Williams sank a jumper and landed on his rear, getting fouled by Kenyon Martin in the process. He made the free throw — one of three in a row — and capped his run with another 3-pointer.
”I was picking my spots and knocking down open shots,” Williams said. ”Kevin didn’t have one of his best nights, so people had to step up. That’s the good thing about our team. Even though Kevin’s the All-Star, we have a lot of other people who can do great things. And when he’s struggling, people have to come off the bench and pick him up.”
From there, Beasley took over, scoring his 13 points after Williams tallied his. Beasley capped his run with a 3, too.
”If we’re going to make any type of noise at all moving forward, we’ve got to win against good teams on the road,” Adelman said, ”so this is a big statement for us.”
Los Angeles never made a serious run late.
”We got to impose our will and that’s going to come with practice,” Paul said. ”We couldn’t get a stop. The effort was there, we played hard, but those guys beat us.”
The Clippers opened the third quarter on a 7-0 run to go up by 10 points. The Wolves answered with eight straight points of their own to close to 61-59. From there, the Clippers outscored them 15-14 to close the period ahead by three.
Griffin scored 18 points in the first quarter. He sat all but the final five minutes of the second, when he scored six points, giving him 24 at halftime when the Clippers led 54-51. Los Angeles led all but the opening minutes of the first half, when the team shot 52 percent from the floor and made 10 of 13 free throws.
NOTES: The Clippers fell to 12-5 at home. … The Wolves opened a stretch of three games in three nights. They play the Lakers on Wednesday and visit Phoenix on Thursday. This trip coincides with a month-long stretch in which they play 13 of 18 on the road. … Baseball Hall of Famer Dave Winfield attended the game.