MINNEAPOLIS (AP) The first 21 games of this season have been anything but pretty for the Los Angeles Clippers.
At least now they’re starting to grind out some ugly wins, which is more than the young Minnesota Timberwolves can say.
DeAndre Jordan had 20 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks to lift the Clippers to a 110-106 victory over the Timberwolves on Monday night.
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Blake Griffin had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Chris Paul made a surprise return to the lineup after missing the previous two games with a rib injury for the Clippers (12-9), who have won five of their last six after a 6-7 start.
Paul finished with 14 points and five assists in 32 minutes.
”We made this uglier than it had to be, you know what I mean?” Paul said. ”But the good thing about it is we got some stops down the stretch.”
Karl-Anthony Towns had 18 points on 7-for-9 shooting, including 3 of 3 from 3-point range for the Timberwolves (8-12), who fell to 2-9 at home. Zach LaVine scored 21 and Shabazz Muhammad added 13 points and nine rebounds.
Interim coach Sam Mitchell said if his young team learned anything in yet another close loss, it would be worth it.
”I’d rather not learn something and get the win,” LaVine quipped.
Los Angeles went 26 for 29 at the free throw line and even Jordan was 4 of 6.
The Clippers trailed 98-95 with a minute to play after a flurry by LaVine, but Jordan threw down an alley-oop and then blocked a shot by LaVine. Griffin scored on a layup for a 99-98 lead with 25 seconds to play. The Clippers won a free throw shooting contest down the stretch.
Andrew Wiggins struggled mightily for Minnesota, scoring just eight points on 3-for-15 shooting. He also missed four of five free throws.
”We just closed out the game,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. ”We executed. We got every shot. We got every stop. That’s how you end games. They’re young, too. They’re just going to keep getting better and better. And they’re going to keep getting harder and harder to beat.”
Paul was listed as out on Sunday with those sore ribs, but Rivers said Paul got some shots up Sunday night and determined he felt good enough to play. Rivers said he was surprised by the late change, and so were the Timberwolves.
Paul shot only 5 of 14, but his presence late in the game proved crucial.
”You need your best players on the road,” Rivers said.
TURN BACK THE CLOCK
The 39-year-old Kevin Garnett’s soaring dunk over Griffin – the kind of dunk that used to end up on posters back when posters were cool and KG was leading the Timberwolves to the Western Conference finals – got the Target Center thumping in the third quarter.
Ricky Rubio poked the ball away and headed up court with the old wolf trailing. Rubio slipped a drop pass to KG, who took flight and threw it down.
”That wasn’t no baby jam,” said LaVine, the reigning slam dunk champion.
The crowd roared and Towns, who wasn’t even born when Garnett made his NBA debut in 1995, went crazy. It was Garnett’s first dunk in a Timberwolves uniform since April 9, 2007, the final season before he was traded to Boston.
Garnett howled at Griffin after the dunk, drawing a technical foul for his antics.
”Seeing KG in practice, I know he has the ability to dunk still,” Towns said. ”But I just saw him taking steps like he was going to dunk. I didn’t know if he was going to dunk or shoot a floater. He surprised me, too.”
Clippers: J.J. Redick was listed as questionable with a sprained ankle, but started and played 32 minutes. He scored 14 points on 1-for-9 shooting from the field. … Jamal Crawford scored 18 points and had seven assists.
Timberwolves: Gorgui Dieng had 14 points and five rebounds. … Garnett finished with five points and three rebounds in 19 minutes.
Clippers: At Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Timberwolves: Host the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.