Paul-less Clippers win third straight
Minneapolis, MN (Sports Network) - Jamal Crawford scored a game-high 22 points as the Los Angeles Clippers continued to roll without star guard Chris Paul with a 90-77 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
Paul, who was named a starter for the Western Conference in the upcoming All-Star Game on Thursday, missed the last three games with a bruised knee and Los Angeles has not missed a beat, winning all three contests.
Blake Griffin added 20 points in this one, while Ronny Turiaf and Matt Barnes contributed 11 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench.
"We needed these three wins, especially with CP3 out," said Griffin. "The other guys stepped up and did a good job."
Luke Ridnour paced Minnesota with 21 points and Andrei Kirilenko followed with 15 in the Timberwolves' fifth straight loss.
"It's tough right now," Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea said. "We just got to stay together, come back Saturday and change it up."
Ricky Rubio made his first start of the season while still recovering from a pair of torn ligaments in his left knee and recorded four points and six assists.
Minnesota held an early 7-5 lead before the Clippers reeled off a 9-0 spurt capped with a Willie Green 3-pointer to jump ahead 14-7 midway through the first quarter.
After a Caron Butler layup later gave Los Angeles a 19-11 edge, the Timberwolves netted six straight points to cut their deficit to two.
But they would not get any closer and the Clippers closed out the first quarter with an 8-5 push to take a 27-22 edge into the second, where Los Angeles followed Dante Cunningham's opening jumper with eight straight points to open up a double-digit lead at 35-24.
The Clippers' lead stretched to 42-30 on a Crawford triple a bit later before the Timberwolves responded with an 11-2 run to get back within three. They trailed 47-43 heading into the break.
Los Angeles then scored eight of the first 10 points of the third quarter to again go on top by double digits.
Minnesota managed get back within three points on two separate occasions in the frame, but each time the Clippers answered at the other end to keep the Timberwolves at arm's length. Los Angeles carried a 68-63 advantage into the fourth.
The Timberwolves never got closer than five points in the final stanza as the Clippers slowly pulled away and a pair of Griffin baskets around a Crawford 3- pointer gave Los Angeles a game-high 86-71 lead with 4:34 to play.
Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic left the game in the third quarter with a right quad contusion and did not return ... Minnesota guard Alexey Shved left the game in the fourth quarter with a left ankle sprain ... The Clippers improved to 12-1 this season when Crawford leads the team in scoring.