LOS ANGELES (AP) — The situation looked bleak at best for the coach Doc Rivers’ Clippers — down by four points with 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Then a couple of defensive stops, a huge turnover by Minnesota’s Kevin Martin, and two clutch baskets by Jamal Crawford forced overtime.
That’s where Jared Dudley and Chris Paul took over. Dudley made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 38 seconds remaining in OT and Paul added five free throws in the final 19 seconds, leading Los Angeles to a 120-116 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday night.
“The biggest thing we learned as a team from Doc is, even in practice, he talks about ‘The game is not over,” Paul said. “When we got down three or four there with seconds left, we could’ve said we lost this one. But we fought hard.”
Blake Griffin had 32 points and 10 rebounds and was 10 for 11 from the free throw line before fouling out with 4:08 left in OT. The defending Pacific Division champions extended their winning streak to a season-best five games while beating the Timberwolves for the eighth straight time, their longest current streak against any opponent.
Jamal Crawford had 22 points for Los Angeles, 7-4 since losing starting forward J.J. Redick with a broken right hand and a torn ligament in his wrist but 5-0 since Crawford was moved into the starting lineup. Paul finished with 19 points and 13 assists.
Kevin Love had a season-high 45 points and tied a season best with 19 rebounds for the Timberwolves, back at Staples Center after their 104-91 loss to the Lakers on Friday night. It was Minnesota’s first overtime game since beating Orlando at home on opening night.
“We just blew it. Blew the game. I don’t know how else to say it. We blew the game,” Love said.
Nikola Pekovic had a career-high 34 points and 14 boards. Martin scored 16 points after averaging 29 in the Timberwolves’ other two meetings against the Clippers — also narrow losses. Point guard Ricky Rubio played 38 scoreless minutes with 12 assists.
“It was a tough loss for a lot of reasons. That’s all I have to say,” coach Rick Adelman said. “I don’t want to say anything. I don’t want to get fined.”
“We need to know how to win and play hard all the way to the end,” Pekovic said. “Winning is a habit, like everything else. We still need to get over the hump to learn how to close out these games.”
Matt Barnes, in his second game back following an eye injury, was ejected with 56 seconds left in the third quarter after committing a flagrant 2 foul against Love on a drive to the basket with the Clippers leading 77-75. Love sank both free throws, then added a go-ahead 3-pointer when Minnesota retained possession.
Minnesota was leading 106-102 before the Clippers forced OT. Crawford made a driving layup and a dunk after Paul forced Martin into his critical turnover. Pekovic then missed an 11-footer and a 20-footer in the final 2 seconds of regulation.
Pekovic had a chance to redeem himself, but missed a 5-foot baseline hook shot and Paul canned two free throws at the other end to seal the victory.
“We just played so hard for something like that to go down,” Martin said. “But we’ll bounce back from it.”
Griffin powered the Clippers to a 56-54 halftime lead with 20 points, offsetting 22 points by Love — the second straight game in which Love had at least 20 in the first half.
Referee Marc Davis made a questionable foul call against Griffin — his third of the game — as Love initiated contact while trying a desperation, buzzer-beating shot from at least 10 feet behind the midcourt line before intermission. Love made all three free throws.
NOTES: Minnesota is 7-6 when Love gets 15 or more rebounds. In his six seasons with the Timberwolves, they are just 39-61 under those circumstances — including a woeful 9-33 mark in 2010-11. … A year ago at this time, the Clippers had won 12 straight en route to a franchise-record 17-game streak. … Love has had 10 or more rebounds in 11 straight games, tying Griffin for the league’s longest such streak this season. … The Timberwolves (13-14) haven’t been more than two games above or below .500 since beating Boston on Nov. 16 to go 7-4.
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