LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Clippers are playing with one eye on the out-of-town scoreboard as they jockey with Denver and Memphis for playoff seeding. At the same time, they’re back to playing with a sustained effort as they close out the regular season.
Blake Griffin and Chris Paul led seven players in double figures with 19 points apiece, and the Clippers beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-95 on Wednesday night for their franchise-record 31st home win of the season.
It was their third straight win since Griffin and Paul talked before Sunday’s home victory against the Lakers that clinched the first Pacific Division title in franchise history.
“We talked about how we always have to be on the same page and we always have to be communicating with each other,” Griffin said. “We had gotten away from what we should have been doing. He’s done a great job the past three games leading by example.”
Paul added 11 assists, and Willie Green had 15 points in breaking the old mark of 30 wins by the 1974-75 team, when it was known as the Buffalo Braves. The Clippers improved to 31-9 at home.
“The past three games our defense has been really good. We’re talking a lot more and the energy picked up,” Paul said, citing his chat with Griffin. “When me and him are on the same page, everybody else has no choice but to fall into line.”
Nikola Pekovic scored 20 points and Derrick Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who got swept 4-0 by the Clippers for the first time since 1992-93.
Ricky Rubio, who had made one of his previous 25 shots entering the game, finished with six points on 2-of-8 shooting. He averaged 5.6 points in his previous five games against the Clippers, his second-lowest scoring average against any NBA team.
“They were pushing the ball aggressively and they got a lot of points on the fast break and playing quick,” Rubio said. “We couldn’t stop it, and that’s why they’re winning so many games.”
The Clippers led the entire game, and owned a comfortable lead beginning the fourth quarter that allowed the second unit to take over, giving the starters valuable rest. They play three of their final four games on the road, including two back-to-backs.
“We’re starting to get our sense of urgency back and it’s starting to show,” said Matt Barnes, who led the bench with 14 points. “Chris and Blake are our leaders, so once they get going early it makes things a lot easier for everyone else.”
Jamal Crawford scored 11 points and Lamar Odom had 13 rebounds.
The Wolves got within three points in the third after a 13-4 run, including six points by Luke Ridnour and four by Andrei Kirilenko. At the same time, the Clippers went through a messy stretch in which they had two technicals and five of their game-high 20 turnovers.
But they settled down and Green’s 3-pointer launched a 19-6 spurt that sent the Clippers into the fourth with an 88-72 lead. He had another 3 and a basket, while DeAndre Jordan and Paul each had four points.
“They have bigs on the inside and they have shooters on the outside, so if you collapse, they’re going to knock down 3s as well,” Williams said. “They just got a little hot in the third quarter.”
The Wolves closed within two points five times in the second quarter, and each time the Clippers retained the lead. They stretched it to 58-46 on a 16-6 run to end the half. Paul opened and closed the spurt with 3-pointers and in between, Griffin threw down consecutive fast-break dunks off Paul’s passes and Jordan dunked off Griffin’s alley-oop pass.
NOTES: Wolves F-C Kevin Love had left knee arthroscopic surgery to remove a buildup of scar tissue on Wednesday in New York, his second operation this season. He broke his right hand on Jan. 3 and had surgery 12 days later. Love averaged 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds in 18 games. … Clippers G Chauncey Billups practiced Tuesday for the first time since aggravating his right groin injury on March 27, but he did not play Wednesday. … The Wolves fell to 10-29 on the road, where they have lost two straight.
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