Timberwolves 113, Clippers 111
After fumbling away a chance to win a game for the Minnesota Timberwolves two nights ago, Michael Beasley responded by drilling a similar chance against the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday.
It's what stars do. It's what Beasley is fast becoming in Minnesota.
Beasley scored 33 points and hit the winning jumper with 2.3 seconds to play to lift the Timberwolves to a 113-111 victory over the beleaguered Clippers.
''I think I'm getting there,'' Beasley said of becoming Minnesota's go-to guy. ''Every game coach is finding the confidence in me to close out games. But we've got so many guys that can knock down shots. We're just waiting for our numbers to be called.''
Kevin Love added 24 points and 14 rebounds and Beasley had seven boards for the Timberwolves, who nearly blew another big lead in the fourth quarter but held on to hand Los Angeles its seventh straight loss.
Eric Gordon scored 30 points and Blake Griffin had 26 points and 17 rebounds for the Clippers (1-11), who haven't won since beating Oklahoma City on Nov. 3.
''This whole year we're just beating ourselves,'' Gordon said. ''At least seven out of these 11 games we've been right there, and we're just beating ourselves. We're right there. We've been in this situation seven, eight times and we just let them off the hook.''
After Beasley's pull-up jumper over former Minnesota forward Ryan Gomes, the Clippers had one more chance. But Rasual Butler's 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.
Darko Milicic finished with 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting and held Griffin to six points in the second half.
The Timberwolves shot 53 percent for the game, including 53 percent (10 for 19) from 3-point range and scored 26 points off 17 L.A. turnovers.
''The guys are battling, fighting,'' coach Vinny Del Negro said. ''If you look at it statistically we're doing some good things, but the turnovers really hurt us, and their field-goal percentage, we've got to do a better job there.''
After blowing an eight-point lead with just over two minutes to play in a loss at Charlotte on Monday night, the Timberwolves made things interesting again in the fourth quarter. They led by eight with just under seven minutes to play, but the Clippers outscored Minnesota 10-1 to retake the lead.
''I was just thinking, 'Not again,''' Love said.
Griffin threw down a ferocious dunk on Anthony Tolliver and Al-Farouq Aminu scored on a fast break for a 111-109 advantage with 1:33 to go.
Corey Brewer banked in an off-balance jumper to tie it and the young Clippers turned the ball over twice in crucial spots down the stretch to give the Wolves the chance to win.
''I beat myself up a lot for that (Bobcats loss),'' said Beasley, who committed two turnovers down the stretch in that game. ''But it's good to get it back on our home court for our fans.''
Minnesota trailed by five early in the third quarter when Beasley gave the team a spirited pep talk coming out of a break. He quickly hit a 20-footer and a 3-pointer and Love added a 3-pointer to give Minnesota a 73-70 lead.
It's the kind of leadership that the 21-year-old Beasley has been exhibiting during his recent offensive surge. He is averaging 32.6 points over the last five games, helping the Wolves go 3-2 in that span with a 42-point effort in Sacramento last week.
''I told you,'' said Love, who is Beasley's biggest fan. ''His versatility on offense is off the charts.''
It was on display Wednesday night, with the 6-foot-9 forward hitting 14 of 23 shots from all over the floor.
His 3-pointer in the fourth quarter gave him 26 points, making him the first Timberwolves player since Kevin Garnett more than 10 years ago to score at least 25 in five straight games.
The Timberwolves are the youngest team in the league, and they were facing a Clippers team that started its youngest lineup in franchise history.
Injuries to veterans Chris Kaman, Baron Davis and Randy Foye have forced Del Negro to go even younger than he expected for this season, with a starting lineup of two 20-year-olds (Eric Bledsoe and Al-Farouq Aminu), two 21-year-olds (Gordon and Griffin) and 22-year-old DeAndre Jordan at center.
''There's nothing you can do but keep grinding it out, get ready for tomorrow and try to get some of the troops back, get Chris and Baron and Randy back and see if that can give us a little bit of a boost,'' Del Negro said. ''Our young guys are getting a lot of experience now, and that's a positive thing. We definitely need to get a win here, but if we keep battling like we did tonight and sharpen some things up we'll have some opportunities.''
NOTES: Aminu scored 17 points. ... Del Negro said Foye is getting closer to returning from his strained left hamstring. There still is not a set day for his first game, but Del Negro said he is making good progress. ... Wolves PG Luke Ridnour played for the first time in five games and had 12 points and eight assists.