MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The young Minnesota Timberwolves have been pushed around by the bigger, stronger Los Angeles Clippers before.
They shoved back in a major way Wednesday night and they are looking less and less like the lost pups they were early in the season.
Karl-Anthony Towns had 29 points and 14 rebounds and the Timberwolves beat the Clippers 107-91 in a tense and sometimes confrontational matchup.
Andrew Wiggins scored 20 points, and Ricky Rubio had 15 points, 12 assists and six rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were well-rested after having their game against Portland on Monday postponed because of condensation on the court. The Wolves held Los Angeles to 42 percent shooting and scored 23 points off of 17 turnovers to pull within 2 1/2 games of Denver for the eighth seed in the Western Conference.
“We’re believing,” Rubio said. “We do believe we can make it. These are meaningful games. I think we’re playing the best basketball since I came here.”
DeAndre Jordan had 20 points and 13 rebounds, and Blake Griffin scored 16 points for the Clippers. Chris Paul had 10 assists, but scored just seven points on 3-for-9 shooting. Los Angeles was outrebounded 50-36, and outscored 62-40 in the paint and 20-2 in transition.
“Guys were missing layups, wide open 3s, wide open shots,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “And they let it take their spirit away. That’s what young teams do. Not veteran teams.”
Shabazz Muhammad had 17 points and six rebounds, and Rubio outplayed Paul from start to snap a nine-game losing streak to the Clippers in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves started the day 3 1/2 games behind Denver for the eighth seed with just 20 games to play. Facing a daunting schedule full of road games down the stretch, they desperately needed this one against a Clippers team that has been outstanding when fully healthy.
Los Angeles is 22-11 this season when all five of its regular starters are healthy and were coming off an impressive win over Boston on Monday.
Rubio got off to a flying 21-6 start, feeding Muhammad for two fast-break dunks in the first quarter and injecting some energy into the arena, and Towns slammed the door with a 3-pointer midway through the fourth to turn back the Clippers’ final charge.
“Right now we are playing with confidence and playing with the demeanor of a playoff team,” Towns said. “This is not out of reach yet.”
Clippers: Paul hit a 46-footer to beat the halftime buzzer after going 0 for 3 in first 16 minutes of the game. … Marreese Speights scored 12 points off the bench, his first double-digit scoring effort since Feb. 6.
Timberwolves: Towns had his 100th career double-double. He is the second-youngest player in league history to reach that mark, behind only Dwight Howard. … Muhammad started for G Brandon Rush, who missed the game with an illness. … G Lance Stephenson, recovered from an ankle injury, signed a second 10-day contract.
Both sides were charged up and spent much of the first half jawing at each other and the officials. Griffin and Gorgui Dieng picked up technical fouls after getting into a shoving match in the second quarter, Kris Dunn got another technical for chirping at Austin Rivers and Tyus Jones was assessed a flagrant-1 foul for a horse-collar foul in transition on Rivers.
It carried over to the second half when Rubio ran through a Griffin screen, eliciting an objection from the Clippers forward.
“You know how the Clippers are,” Muhammad said. “With DeAndre and Blake and Chris, those guys are trying to bully us. We stood up and it got kind of chippy. We stayed composed and that was a big thing for us.”
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
“I mean, they were wolves. We were not.” — Doc Rivers.
Clippers: Los Angeles travels to Memphis for a game against the scuffling Grizzlies on Thursday.
Timberwolves: Minnesota wraps up a three-game homestand on Friday against Golden State.
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