Kevin Love hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer after Ricky Rubio’s tying 3 with 20 seconds to play, lifting the Minnesota Timberwolves to a pulsating 101-98 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday night.
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Darko Milicic had 22 points and seven rebounds for Minnesota before fouling out with 1:01 left, and Love had 17 points and 14 rebounds.
The Timberwolves, coming off consecutive home wins over Sacramento and Detroit, have won three straight for the first time since a four-game stretch from Jan. 29 to Feb. 6, 2010. After that, they lost 29 of their final 31 games.
Rubio, Minnesota’s rookie point guard, missed his first 10 field goal attempts before draining a clutch 3 from in front of the Clippers’ bench.
Chauncey Billups missed a driving layup against Rubio coming out of a timeout, and Love got the rebound before Minnesota called a timeout with 1.5 seconds on the clock.
Luke Ridnour inbounded the ball in front of the midcourt line to a wide-open Love, whose only option was to catch and shoot from a few feet beyond the arc. The ball hit nothing but net as the sellout crowd groaned.
The victory snapped a seven-game home winning streak for the Clippers.
Mo Williams scored 21 of his 25 points off the bench in the first half for the Clippers before getting ejected midway through the fourth quarter. Blake Griffin had 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Billups finished with 20 points after getting into early foul trouble. Point guard Chris Paul missed his fourth straight game because of a left hamstring strain.
Williams received his second technical foul with 6:21 remaining, after he was called for fouling Rubio on a drive to the basket as Rubio lost his footing. The Timberwolves closed to 91-90 with 4:37 remaining after four consecutive free throws by Rubio. Billups responded with a 3-pointer and two free throws for a 98-94 Clippers lead.
Clippers starting forward Caron Butler, who shot a career-worst 1 for 12 on Wednesday night in a 91-89 win over Dallas after hyperextending his right knee the previous night at Utah, did not play against the Timberwolves.
Michael Beasley, whose game-winning jumper with 2.3 seconds to go capped a 33-point effort in the Timberwolves’ first meeting with the Clippers last season, missed his eighth straight game due to a sprained right foot. Reserve guard JJ Barea was back in Minnesota nursing a sprained ankle that also will keep him out of Saturday night’s game at Utah. Center Brad Miller and guard Martell Webster, both of whom resumed practice this week, also didn’t dress.
The Timberwolves, whose only other lead came after Milicic’s game-opening basket, opened the third quarter with a 12-1 run that sliced an 11-point deficit to 62-60. But that was as close as they got. Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro tried to stall Minnesota’s momentum with a timeout after Milicic’s slam dunk, and Billups responded with a 16-footer and a 3-pointer.
Billups, who hit clutch 3-pointers to nail down each of the Clippers’ previous two wins against New Jersey and Dallas, got off to an inauspicious start against the Timberwolves with two fouls in the first 4:38 – and a technical foul for complaining about the second one after he was called for a charge against Ridnour.
Williams replaced Billups and got a technical foul with 1:12 left in the opening quarter, after picking up his second personal on a charge against Ridnour and slamming the ball in disgust. Williams quickly regained his focus, making back-to-back 3-pointers and a driving layup in the final 51 seconds of the period to give the Clippers a 31-22 lead.
It was the second straight game in which Williams – the Clippers’ starting point guard last season before the acquisitions of Paul and Billups in December – started out 7 for 7 from the field. Williams also made his first seven shots Wednesday night against the Mavericks, finishing with 26 points in a game the Clippers won on Billups’ 3-pointer with 1 second on the clock.
Notes: Billups overtook Peja Stojakovic for fourth place in career 3-pointers (1,762). Ahead of him are Ray Allen, Reggie Miller and Jason Kidd. … An MRI taken Thursday on Butler’s knee revealed no structural damage. It was the same knee he had surgery on last January, which sidelined him for the rest of the season, but Del Negro said this injury was not related. … The Clippers and Timberwolves have gone the longest of any NBA teams without a playoff berth. Los Angeles last made it during the 2006 season, and Minnesota hasn’t qualified since 2004. … The Clippers won three of four against Minnesota last season. Griffin averaged 26.5 points and 10.8 rebounds, while Love averaged 20 points and 13.3 boards. … Minnesota coach Rick Adelman’s teams are 61-20 against the Clippers, his best mark against any club.