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Clippers shake off cold start to beat Timberwolves

Minnesota Timberwolves' Karl-Anthony Towns attempts to block a shot by Clippers' Serge Ibaka.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns attempts to block a shot by Clippers’ Serge Ibaka during the first half on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
(Jim Mone / Associated Press)

Walking onto the court for his first opening tip in 16 days, Clippers guard Patrick Beverley tapped knuckles Wednesday with Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns, took the game ball from an official and planted a kiss on its cover.

For eight games, the Clippers had missed their voluble, intense starting guard, and he had felt a similar longing back.

“Basketball is my sanctuary,” Beverley said. “It’s where I’m at peace at.”

Beverley and the Clippers had known for several days that his return would come in Minnesota. But that knowledge didn’t dull a pregame mood coach Tyronn Lue described, not surprisingly, as “super fired up.”

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It took two quarters, but his team eventually matched that energy in a 119-112 victory that opened their two-game trip by ending a two-game losing streak.

Clippers guard Patrick Beverley, who has missed eight games with an injured right knee, traveled with the team to Minnesota and could soon return to the lineup.

Kawhi Leonard scored a game-high 36 points, Lou Williams scored a season-high 27 points off the bench and the duo combined to make all 10 of their shots in the fourth quarter for 25 points.

Trailing by 13 points in the first half to a Minnesota team owning the Western Conference’s worst record and missing its third-leading scorer, the Clippers appeared as though they were still de-icing from the single-digit temperatures in Minneapolis outside Target Center’s doors — outhustled to 10 offensive rebounds, playing at a glacial offensive pace, shooting 38%.

“Our energy coming out in the first quarter was terrible,” Leonard said. “Nobody was focused, everybody was being lackadaisical.”

It was kind of start that would have driven Beverley mad had he still been in Los Angeles, where he’d spent a six-game trip this month recovering from a knee injury suffered Jan. 24, peppering teammates with text messages containing his thoughts as he watched on television, a disconnected experience he likened to “watching your brothers lose a fight, and you can’t help,” he said.

This time he was in the locker room when Lue told his team at halftime that they had not played physical enough. And he was on the court when the game flipped.

The Clippers (18-8) held Minnesota (6-19) to 20 third-quarter points, outscoring the Timberwolves by 13 in the quarter and 16-2 in one three-minute stretch. They then protected that lead midway through the fourth by inserting a small-ball lineup around Marcus Morris at center to limit a mismatch Minnesota big man Naz Reid (23 points) had found against Clippers center Ivica Zubac.

Playing under a minutes restriction, Beverley finished with six points, three rebounds and four fouls in his 18 minutes and he keyed a notable swing with 6 minutes 58 seconds to play in the fourth quarter when his block of Jarred Vanderbilt’s layup attempt quickly led to a dunk by Leonard at the other end for a nine-point Clippers lead. Beverley’s return after eight missed games was officially green-lighted after four days of workouts after which Beverley showed “no soreness, no pain in his knee,” Lue said before tipoff.

The Clippers have a reputation for strong third quarters, but a second-half surge never materialized in their 113-110 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

The guard said the soreness in his right knee was related to “something that came up” from a previous injury, but as disappointed as he was to be out, he considered the timing a good thing.

“I’d rather it happen now than playoffs,” he said.

The Clippers (18-8) have won their last seven games with Beverley in the lineup. Like the Clippers, who were still without Paul George for a third consecutive game as he recovers from an injured right foot, the Timberwolves played without one starter, D’Angelo Russell, while getting back another from a long wait.

Towns was playing in just his fifth game of the season, three weeks after being sidelined by COVID-19. It was a troubling diagnosis: His father and mother had both battled COVID, with his mother dying in April from it.
“I was just smiling on the court,” Towns said after 18 points and 10 rebounds in 31 minutes. “Things got very serious. You get to a point where you just don’t feel like you will ever see that court again.”

Beverley, meanwhile, knew he would be back, if he could endure his own wait. When it was over Wednesday, he crept up behind Williams during his teammate’s postgame television interview and jumped on his back. Asked if Beverley had appeared extra motivated, Leonard demurred.

“I wouldn’t notice,” he said. “He’s like that every day.”


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