MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, Blake Griffin added 20 and the Los Angeles Clippers hardly broke a sweat in cruising to a 90-77 victory over the free-falling Minnesota Timberwolves on Thursday night.
Lamar Odom grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists, and the Clippers outscored Minnesota’s bench 45-23 to overcome Chris Paul’s third straight missed game because of a knee injury.
Luke Ridnour scored 21 points and Ricky Rubio had four points and six assists in his first start of the season for the Timberwolves, who lost leading scorer and rebounder Nikola Pekovic to a bruised right quadriceps in the third quarter.
The Timberwolves shot just 35.7 percent and missed 15 of their 19 3-pointers in losing their fifth straight game.
Even without their MVP candidate out there to steer the ship over the last few games, the Clippers have been humming right along. Backup Eric Bledsoe clearly has been watching how Paul goes about his business because the third-year Kentucky point guard has played with a maturity and explosiveness that has allowed the Clippers to not miss a beat.
Bledsoe picked up two quick fouls in the first 3 minutes on Thursday night, but that was no problem for the deepest team in the league. Coach Vinny Del Negro went to the super-sub Crawford, who scored 12 points in the first half to help Los Angeles muddle through an uninspired start.
“We should come into every arena feeling we should get the W,” Caron Butler said at the morning shootaround. “That’s not being cocky or overconfident. That’s having enough confidence in our ability and ourselves and the personnel we have out there and the system that we run.”
The Clippers looked a little too overconfident early in the game, seemingly playing on cruise control against a team they knew was undermanned and overwhelmed. Los Angeles turned the ball over 17 times in the first three quarters and coasted offensively to allow the Wolves to hang around.
Minnesota trailed by just five going into the fourth quarter, but the Clippers simply wore down the Timberwolves with their depth. Bledsoe scored only two points, but Crawford’s 3-pointer with 5 minutes to go gave Los Angeles a 13-point lead and the short-handed Wolves simply faded away.
Pekovic was injured while getting tangled with Griffin under the basket in the third quarter and Alexey Shved rolled his left ankle midway through the final period, the latest in an incredible pile of injuries for the Wolves this season. Kevin Love is out for two months with a right hand that is broken for the second time this season, Brandon Roy may not play at all this season with recurring knee problems, Chase Budinger is out until March with a knee injury and Josh Howard and Malcolm Lee are both lost for the season with injuries.
Head coach Rick Adelman missed his sixth straight game while tending to his sick wife.
NOTES: Paul and Griffin were voted starters for the Western Conference in the All-Star game. … The Timberwolves held a moment of silence for Minnesota Lynx COO Conrad Smith, who died after a long battle with cancer on Wednesday night. Smith also worked for the Timberwolves, Twins and North Stars over the years. “Simply put, Conrad is irreplaceable,” Timberwolves and Lynx president Chris Wright said. … The Wolves agreed to terms with F Mickael Gelabale of France, who planned to join the team on Friday. … Ronny Turiaf, a 38 percent free throw shooter this season, drew jeers when he airballed a freebie in the fourth quarter.
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