Clippers put this 1 in the win column, beat Minnesota, 93-90
Finally, a winning finish.
It may have been a wavering one against a non-playoff team playing its second game in two nights, but the Clippers managed to stagger across the finish line into the win column with a 93-90 victory against Minnesota on Monday at Staples Center.
Easy? Of course not.
Would you expect anything else the way things have gone for the Clippers this last week or year(s)?
They were up by 13 points against the Timberwolves early in the third quarter and let the lead shrivel and watched it eventually disappear by the opening seconds of the fourth, but they hung on.
What stopped the bleeding, among other things, was the continued excellence of center Chris Kaman, who was 10 for 15 from the field, with 25 points and 11 rebounds.
The sound of 1-4 was a huge sigh of relief for the Clippers.
Then there was this playful noise: “MVP, MVP, MVP.”
Clippers’ fans serenaded Kaman with the chant in the first quarter when he got off to another fast start, and again, in the fourth quarter. Kaman had seven points in the fourth quarter, most notably slamming home a dunk with 4:20 remaining.
“We had a nice little lead and we kind of let them back in, which was disappointing to us, but ultimately it is about wins and losses and we got the win,” Kaman said. “It’s good to get a win under our belt. Whether it’s against the Lakers or the Timberwolves, it doesn’t matter to us.”
“A win’s a win, but unfortunately it was a little nasty win.”
Kaman was two points away from his career high, of 27, which came in a loss to Dallas on Saturday. Eric Gordon had 17 points, including two three-pointers, and Baron Davis added 13 points and eight assists. He had five of the Clippers’ 20 turnovers.
Gordon had plenty of huge moments but perhaps none bigger than in the final seconds, when his tenacious defense didn’t allow Corey Brewer to get off a quality shot from long range with the Clippers leading by three.
Minnesota (1-3) was led by Al Jefferson’s 24 points; Brewer had 14.
The Clippers’ opening week of the season featured the loss of rookie power forward Blake Griffin, with a stress fracture in his left kneecap, and four losses to decent teams.
Clippers Coach Mike Dunleavy wasn’t willing to discuss whether there was a lingering subconscious thing going on with his team, in regard to being without Griffin.
“I don’t think about that,” he said. “My brain would fry if I started thinking about those things. I’ve got enough issues, worrying about things as opposed to thinking of things to worry about.”
The Clippers didn’t shy away from acknowledging the pressure of a winless record beforehand.
“Of course we need it, obviously,” Dunleavy said. “When you don’t have a win, you need one badly.”
That was echoed by backup point guard Sebastian Telfair, who along with Craig Smith, was playing against his former team, the Timberwolves.
“We need a win in the worst way,” he said before the game. “We haven’t finished it off. That’s our home crowd. I think that’s one thing we talked about earlier, to establish our home court and we haven’t been doing that so far.”
Until Monday, that is.
What had been widely anticipated finally happened, with the Clippers taking small forward Al Thornton out of the starting lineup.
Thornton, who was a combined four for 18 in back-to-back losses at Utah on Friday and at home against Dallas on Saturday, was supplanted by Rasual Butler, who had 12 points against Minnesota, including eight in the fourth quarter.
“You also have to take into consideration the personnel he’s playing against,” Dunleavy said. “He’s had four pretty rough customers: [Ron] Artest in the first game, Grant Hill in the second game, [Andrei] Kirilenko the third game, and then [Shawn] Marion in the fourth game.
“All those guys, other than maybe Grant Hill, are bigger and stronger than he is. I think it’s too early to jump the gun on it.”
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