Stanley Roberts survived!
No sprained ankles or strained backs or conks on the head, only four fouls and no stitches. Not to mention 20 points, eight-of-12 shooting, six rebounds and three blocks during the Clippers' 124-107 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves before 18,101 at Target Center on Sunday.
When Roberts was last seen making such a contribution, it was March 4, a 15-rebound, 11-point effort at Washington.
Then came March 5 at Miami and the sprained ankle suffered during the opening tip. He played only 15 minutes--and still fouled out.
Two days later, at Orlando, the strained lower back--and six fouls in 30 minutes.
Then he sat out two games because of the back injury, at Atlanta and against New Jersey at the Sports Arena.
The return, Friday against the Timberwolves in Los Angeles, lasted 17 minutes. He struggled with the back, stiff at the outset and fatiguing as the game progressed, before Minnesota's Marlon Maxey, coming down after a rebound attempt, elbowed Roberts on the top of his head. That resulted in five stitches, and Roberts stayed out as a precaution.
For the rematch in Minneapolis Sunday, he was wondering if he needed a helmet in addition to goggles, those the result of having twice been poked in the eye earlier in the season. As it turned out, the only black-and-blue marks were found on the Timberwolves, as the Clippers shot 60% after shooting 60.2% during the 24-point victory at the Sports Arena.
"A couple of elbows did fly my way out there," Roberts said. "But I moved out of the way this time."
He was in the way during the fourth quarter, when the Timberwolves cut a 20-point deficit to 11. Roberts blocked shots by Maxey and Doug West within two minutes and added a turn-around jumper from the right post as the Clippers extended their lead back to 16, never to be threatened again.
"I think he's lost a little bit because he's been out a while," Clipper Coach Larry Brown said. "I don't think he's near 100%. But he was encouraging today, especially with the game on the line. He got some rebounds, blocked some shots, intimidated others and made a couple of baskets. It was nice to have him back."
Said Roberts: "It feels like I haven't played in about three weeks. But I felt good out there on the whole. I just tried to relax. I've had a lot of success against the Timberwolves, so this was nice. I had 20-something against them last year (while with Orlando). Minnesota has been good to me."
The Clippers swept the four-game series with Minnesota for the second season in a row and improved to 14-2 against the Timberwolves.
"We needed these type of games to get us back on track," Mark Jackson said after getting a season-high 15 assists for the third time, along with 18 points and three steals.
"But people shouldn't be fooled. These were not gimme games. We had to go out and perform, and we did that both games."
The technical foul that referee Ed Middleton called against Mark Jackson was the first of Jackson's career--professional, college or NBA. He swears. "I don't believe in getting technicals," he said. "I believe in being a politician out there, discussing things with the refs. . . . I was shocked. I watched as if it was going in slow motion when he made the 'T' sign." According to Jackson, Middleton acknowledged overeacting to a simple statement about a foul call and said that he would write a letter to the league in hopes of getting the $100 fine rescinded. "It just shows he is a classy referee," Jackson said.
The Clippers set seasons highs for assists in both games against the Timberwolves, getting 39 Friday and 40 Sunday. . . . Minnesota's Doug West led all scorers with 28 points. Ron Harper had 25 for the Clippers. Danny Manning added 19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists in only 30 minutes.