Clippers show improvement in win over T-Wolves
NOV 11, 2013 9:46p ET
When you're going good, these things happen.
The Clippers returned home from a 1-2 road trip and found a sense of comfort back in their arena. Their defense is improving, their offense is impressive and they're making critical plays down the stretch.
If nothing else, their 109-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves was built on a defense that gave up 96 field-goal attempts but held the T-Wolves to 41.7 percent shooting.
"Team defense overall was really good," coach Doc Rivers said. "It's just the 96 shots was really bad. They got a lot of shots."
The Clippers had occasional troubles rebounding and gave up 52 points in the paint, but they held off the T-Wolves at the finish – including the final moments when three attempts to tie the game failed.
After Blake Griffin missed a baseline drive that would have given the Clippers a four-point lead, Minnesota called a timeout with 6.9 seconds remaining. But Kevin Martin's 16-footer didn't go in, Nikola Pekovic's short layup missed, and Kevin Love's easy tip teetered on the rim at the buzzer and fell out.
"We were fortunate at the end," Rivers said. "That was a point-blank tip."
Had it gone in, there would have been an overtime. It simply rolled out, giving the Clippers three consecutive home wins, their best opening stretch since the 2007-08 season.
In what has become normal fare, the Clippers' big three all had double-doubles. Griffin scored 25 points and had 10 rebounds, Chris Paul finished with 21 points and 11 assists and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 11 boards.
The Clippers shot 55 percent for the game.
Off the bench, guard Jamal Crawford had 18 points, including a desperation 3-pointer from beyond halfcourt to beat the halftime buzzer.
"A lot of guys honestly don't want to take that shot because it ruins their percentage," Crawford said. "But I've always been one to kind of go for it. We only won by two points, so tonight it came in handy."
It may have been the bucket that ignited the Clippers, who led by one at the half but pushed it to 11 in the fourth quarter before Minnesota came back.
"He just needs to see the ball go in, even if it's from three-quarters court,” Rivers said of Crawford. "Once that went in, it was like it clicked him on."
Even so, the Clippers needed their defense to keep them in front. But they're still not quite where they want to be.
"We've gotten better, but we haven't exactly put it all together yet," Griffin said. "We will obviously take this win, but we were fortunate for them to miss two put-backs near the end."
Said Paul: "We're almost there. A lot of times tonight we were just in the right spots. I think we need to get better rebounding collectively. We can't just rely on DeAndre and Blake."
One other good sign: The Clippers' bench, with Matt Barnes back from a thigh injury, scored 40 points and scored 21 consecutive points from the end of the first quarter to the 5:55 mark of the second.
Barnes had nine points and Ryan Hollins added seven.
"I think we're getting a little more comfortable," Crawford said. "Hopefully, the rest of this month we'll get better and better. We're better now than we were at the start of the season."
They all are. And they're seeing the results.