LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Clippers gave up 96 shots to Minnesota. Lucky for them, the Timberwolves’ last three didn’t go in.
Blake Griffin had 25 points and 10 rebounds, Chris Paul added 21 points and the Clippers hung on for a 109-107 victory on Monday night after Kevin Love missed a tip-in at the buzzer.
“We got fortunate at the end,” Los Angeles coach Doc Rivers said. “It was a point-blank tip.”
With 3 seconds left, Kevin Martin missed a jumper that Nikola Pekovic rebounded, only to miss the layup. Love grabbed the ball and missed again to end the Wolves’ two-game winning streak.
“My natural instinct was to try to rush it and get it up there, but it sat on the rim and came right off. I would say 99 times out of a hundred times that goes in,” Love said. “I could have dunked it, but I thought I just had to touch it real quick because time was running out.”
Paul had 11 assists, Jamal Crawford scored 18 points and DeAndre Jordan had 14 points and 11 rebounds to help the Clippers improve to 3-0 at home with Oklahoma City headed to Staples Center on Wednesday.
“This year is one of the most competitive years I’ve seen for a while,” Clippers backup center Ryan Hollins said. “Every single night you’re playing a big matchup. Minnesota didn’t even make the playoffs last year, and they’re just as good as anybody in the league right now.”
Martin scored 30 points for the Wolves, who lost their sixth straight against the Clippers.
Pekovic added 25 points, and Love had 23 points and 19 rebounds. They ended a 22-game series losing streak against the Lakers on Sunday, and nearly stopped their skid against Staples Center’s other NBA team.
“Our guys believed they could get back in it,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “They made the right plays defensively and converted at the other end. That’s the way you have to play if you’re going to try to win. In this league, you have to give yourselves a chance to win in the fourth quarter, and we were there.”
Los Angeles opened the fourth with a 14-7 run to build a 98-87 lead, its first by double digits since the second quarter. Crawford scored eight points. Jordan missed all five of his free throws in the period, clanking his last two off the front of the rim while the Wolves got within six.
Minnesota cut its deficit to 101-99 on a fast-break dunk by Martin off Paul’s turnover. Martin hit a 3-pointer on the previous possession.
The Clippers scored six in a row to go up 107-99 before the Wolves answered with six straight to trail 107-105.
Griffin got fouled and made both for a 109-107 lead. Corey Brewer missed a 3-pointer in the left corner, but Pekovic was alone under the basket, grabbed the rebound and put it in to keep the Wolves within two with 28 seconds left.
“We’re a very good team when we are fighting back and this was another great learning experience for us,” Love said.
The teams played a back-and-forth third, with neither leading by more than six points. Ricky Rubio’s 3-pointer put the Wolves ahead 76-74 before the Clippers closed on an 11-4 run to lead 85-80. Crawford tossed up a 3-pointer from 15 feet behind the midcourt line that banked in at the buzzer, enlivening the crowd.
“We only won by two points so it came in handy,” he said.
The Clippers used a 19-5 run, including 10 in a row, with six different players scoring to go up 53-42 in the second quarter. Pekovic keyed a 16-6 spurt with nine points to send the Wolves into halftime trailing 59-58.
Notes: Paul missed a free throw, going 7 of 8 to end his streak of converting 37 in a row. … Barnes played with a right thigh contusion. … Wolves rookie Shabazz Muhammad, who left UCLA after one year, sat after playing 2:47 against the Lakers in his return to Los Angeles. … Paul has at least 10 assists in all eight games this season. … The Clippers swept the Wolves in four games last season.
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