MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Blake Griffin and Kevin Love had been duking it out for 3½ quarters, and Chris Paul was content to watch two of the best power forwards in the game pound away at each other.
When the two big guys started to tire from the grueling duel, the little man took over and finished off the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Griffin had 20 points and 10 rebounds to win his matchup with Love and Paul scored 16 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Los Angeles Clippers to a 102-98 victory over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Paul finished with 20 points and 11 assists for his 12th straight double-double to open the season, breaking Magic Johnson’s previous mark of 11 straight in 1990-91.
“It’s huge man. Magic is a mentor of mine, somebody I look up to,” Paul said. “His basketball production was unbelievable so be mentioned in anything with him is huge and an honor.”
He scored 12 straight points for the Clippers in the final 3:41 to hold off another late charge from the Wolves and break out of a six-game slump in which he was hitting just 35 percent of his shots.
“It’s just cool to see the ball go through the net,” Paul said. “I’ll take it whenever. Fourth quarter is winning time and we’re all competitive, but as the leader of the team, me and Blake, we know that’s when it’s time to win.”
Kevin Martin had 28 points and 10 rebounds and Nikola Pekovic had 20 points and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves.
But Love managed just 10 points on 2-for-14 shooting to go with 12 rebounds for the Wolves, who have lost two straight to start a tough stretch of five games in seven nights.
“We were just tired, I think, and it’s not getting any easier heading forward,” said Love, whose Wolves host Brooklyn on Friday night before trips to Houston and Indiana. “Nights happen like that and you just try to fight through it. I was a little frustrated. I was getting slammed out there.”
Jamal Crawford scored 16 points for the Clippers, who made 12 of 24 3-pointers and held the Wolves to 37.8 percent shooting.
The Clippers led by 11 points with seven minutes to play in the game, a 12-3 surge by the Wolves cut the deficit to 84-82 with 4:34 to play.
But Griffin hit a 21-foot jumper and Paul, who had just four points in the game’s first 43 minutes, converted a three-point play, hit a 3 from the wing and added a 15-foot jumper and a 19-footer to help the Clippers seal it.
“That’s why he’s a superstar and one of the best point guards in this league,” Martin said. “He got hot at the end and he’s capable of doing that. We did everything we could do to try to force him to miss shots, and unfortunately for them he didn’t.”
In a matchup of two of the best power forwards in the league, Griffin and Love spent the first half essentially playing each other to an underwhelming draw. They combined to shoot 4 for 17 before Griffin made his move in the third.
He scored 14 points in the quarter, often going right at Love and scoring any way he wanted. Layups, jumpers, nifty spin moves in the post.
It was all on display for a player who has put everything together in the past 10 days. Griffin came into the game averaging 25 points and 11.3 rebounds per game over his previous four, and he showed vastly improved defense on Wednesday night as well. He had two blocks and two steals, frustrating Love all the way.
“I think for the first time, I don’t know if it was from being tired, shot wasn’t falling or they were getting away with a lot, my emotions got the best of me,” said Love, who was 0 for 4 in the second half and had eight assists. “But that happens to people every now and then. I just tried to get myself going in other ways.”
NOTES: Before the game, Wolves president Flip Saunders gave Clippers coach Doc Rivers a hard time about walking out to mid-court late in the Clippers’ victory over the Timberwolves on Nov. 11 to call a timeout. “Flip Saunders of all people,” Rivers cracked. “He coached from mid-court.” … DeAndre Jordan and Ryan Hollins each were whistled for flagrant-one fouls in the game. … J.J. Redick scored 14 points for the Clippers.
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