Gomes, T-wolves beat short-handed Clippers
With four post players out, the Los Angeles Clippers were significantly smaller and Minnesota took advantage.
Ryan Gomes had 24 points and 13 rebounds, Craig Smith added 16 points, and the Timberwolves beat the Clippers 87-77 on Tuesday night in a matchup of short-handed teams.
"We wanted to focus on hitting the paint," Minnesota coach Kevin McHale said. "I think that we rebounded well tonight and that made the difference."
Rebound they did.
Three starters posted double-digits in that category for Minnesota, which outrebounded the Clippers 62-34. The Timberwolves also had 46 points in the paint.
Both teams were missing at least three starters because of injuries and a suspension. Los Angeles was playing without four bigs.
"The height differential really hurt us. We had a couple of times where our guys were battling for the ball, but the size differential was just too much," Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy said.
Losing one of their two bigs early in the third quarter didn't help. DeAndre Jordan went out with 9:47 remaining in the quarter and didn't return because of an Achilles' sprain.
"I think they just wore us down. They were physical. We were out there playing with eight guys and trying to box their big guys out, they were just more physical than we were," Clippers guard Baron Davis said.
"With DJ going out, it forced another guard to play down low. Myself, (Fred) Jones and (Steve) Novak was trying to push Smith and Gomes and (Kevin) Love under the basket trying to help (Brian) Skinner as much as possible. I think their whole front line dominated the game."
Both Gomes and Smith are 6-foot-7 and weigh about 250 pounds. When Jordan went out, Skinner was the biggest man on the court for the Clippers at 6-9, 255 pounds.
Eric Gordon scored 28 for the Clippers, who went without a basket for four-plus minutes to start the fourth quarter. Smith had seven consecutive points in the period to give the Timberwolves their biggest lead of the game, 78-62, with 10:18 remaining.
Love, who finished with 13 points and 15 rebounds, scored the first seven points of the third quarter to give Minnesota a 54-41 lead it never relinquished. Most of those shots were uncontested.
"Our game plan worked. I think that we were so big they were concerned about getting the ball in the middle, and then they were collapsing there and then we were making the extra pass," Gomes said. "Guys were getting wide open looks to knock down some shots. It benefited in our favor."
The Clippers tried to get back into it behind Gordon, who made three 3-pointers in the third quarter, two during a 10-3 run that brought Los Angeles within seven.
"Eric helped us hold on in the game and Brian gave us good play off the bench. But the poundings we took under the board were just impossible to overcome," Dunleavy said.
The road victory was a rare one for Minnesota, which has only won 12 away from home this season.
The Clippers, who left the court while being showered with boos, came within 10 points three times in the fourth but couldn't get any closer. Gordon and Davis were the only starters to score in the fourth for Los Angeles, and Davis only had a free throw.
Novak continued his 3-point shooting woes, going 0-for-8 and falling to 8-for-28 in his last seven games.
The Clippers shot a measly 25 percent in the first quarter, but were only down by six going into halftime because of an effective second quarter in which they shot 11-for-19. Davis had seven points in that quarter and Skinner added six for Los Angeles.
Zach Randolph was suspended by Dunleavy on Monday for two games after he was arrested for suspicion of drunk driving. Chris Kaman sat because of flu-like symptoms and Al Thornton and Marcus Camby didn't play because of injuries.
Timberwolves starters Randy Foye and Rodney Carney were both out with hip injuries.
Notes: Thornton will have an MRI in the morning and could miss the remainder of the season with a sprained right shoulder. He said his shoulder slipped out for the second time this season when the team played the Lakers. ... Foye missed the West Coast trip. ... Davis flew onto the TV table to save a pass after he stole it from Mike Miller in the first quarter. ... Randolph's two-game suspension was his second of the season. He was also benched for two games for punching a Phoenix player.