The Clippers dressed hurriedly in their locker room late Monday night inside Target Center, trying to beat an approaching snowstorm so they could head home to Southern California. They had already weathered a tougher challenge by coming back to defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 110-105, after looking beat for much of the final three quarters. Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. The Clippers avoided being tripped up. A trip that got off to a rough start with a loss to Houston finished with three consecutive victories, all of them significant. The Clippers showed they could win grind-it-out, playoff-style games against Memphis and Chicago before overcoming a flurry of injuries and a blown 18-point lead against Minnesota, one of the few teams in the league younger and arguably more athletic than the Clippers. “This was the hardest of the three considering the injuries, the back to back, the last game of a road trip, a team that's playing great with a lot of energy,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “I was very concerned all day about this game and it ended up rightly so but we won.”
2. The report on the calls in the last two minutes should generate some significant page views for the NBA. There was what seemed like a super-quick ejection of Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick and a controversial out-of-bounds play involving Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio that could both prompt mea culpas from the league. Redick was ejected after complaining about Minnesota Coach Flip Saunders coming onto the court during a dead ball and then telling a referee he was going to get his money back. Redick said Saunders, rather than himself, should be subject to league discipline after Saunders directed an expletive at Redick. “To me, if an owner or a coach goes after a player for no reason, there should be some repercussions for that,” Redick said. “I don’t know why the player would receive a double technical. I didn’t say anything to Flip, I said something to the ref — ‘Get him off the court,’ which, he shouldn’t have been on the court in the first place.”
3. Austin Rivers and Kevin Garnett won’t be exchanging Christmas cards. Rivers bumped Garnett on his way to a timeout huddle in the fourth quarter and Garnett nudged Rivers in response, resulting in technical fouls on each player. Rivers said Garnett had elbowed him in the head earlier in the game, resulting in a red welt. “He elbowed me in my head and that’s not going to fly, really,” Rivers said. “I have all the respect in the world for him. He’s one of the best players to ever play the game, but at the end of the day I’m a man just like he is and that’s all there is to it.”
4. The Clippers’ much-maligned bench earned a raise. Rivers was aggressive on the way to 13 points and found Glen Davis near the basket for a couple of fourth-quarter layups. Davis was his usual flurry of activity, getting two steals and a block to go with his season-high 12 points. Jordan Hamilton probably bought himself another 10-day contract by scoring 10 points and playing good defense in his first start as a Clipper while filling in for Matt Barnes. Dahntay Jones made two game-sealing free throws. Spencer Hawes, who usually comes off the bench but was starting in place of Blake Griffin, made a three-pointer to give the Clippers a four-point advantage in what was easily Hawes' biggest shot of the season.
5. The Clippers need a get-well card. They could be missing three of their best players Wednesday against Portland after Matt Barnes (hamstring) and Jamal Crawford (calf) joined Griffin (elbow) on the dreaded injury report. Barnes and Crawford could play against the Trail Blazers at Staples Center if they show improvement, but if they sit out it would give them an extended break with the Clippers’ next game Sunday against Golden State. That would also be the earliest possible return for Griffin, who has been sidelined since early last month after undergoing surgery to remove a staph infection from his right elbow.