The Minnesota Timberwolves found a way to take DeAndre Jordan out of the game.
There was nothing they could do about Chris Paul and Jamal Crawford.
With Crawford hitting shots from all over the court and Paul making a defiant defensive play on his way to another double-double, the Clippers held on for a 109-107 victory over the Timberwolves on Monday night at Staples Center.
First they had to endure a hold-your-breath finish.
The Timberwolves had three chances to tie the score in the game’s final moments, but Kevin Martin missed a forced 16-foot jumper and Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love couldn’t convert put-backs. Love smiled in disbelief after his shot hung on the rim for a second before falling away.
“We got fortunate at the end,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers said. “I mean, that was a point-blank tip.”
Crawford banked in a 51-foot heave to end the third quarter, the prelude to his 10-point fourth quarter that included a three-pointer and a driving layup. He finished with 18 points and six assists.
“You think it has a chance as soon as you let it go, and it went in,” Crawford said of his shot from beyond midcourt. “So I’m excited.”
Paul provided an emotional lift with 1 minute 39 seconds left by wrestling the ball away from Minnesota’s Corey Brewer underneath the basket. Paul was then fouled and made two free throws to give the Clippers a 107-101 lead.
The Timberwolves eventually pulled to within 109-107 thanks to a couple of Pekovic layups and a pair of Martin free throws. The Clippers had a chance to extend their advantage but Blake Griffin missed a driving layup with 7.9 seconds left, setting up the Timberwolves’ final shots.
Paul continued a double-double binge, his 21 points and 11 assists putting him in double figures in each category in all eight games this season.
“We play a lot faster this year, and obviously that gives the other team an opportunity to score a little bit more,” Paul said. “We’ve got to get stops.”
Griffin finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds and Jordan, who returned to the court in the final moments for defensive purposes, had 14 points and 11 rebounds.
Jordan had departed after Minnesota intentionally fouled him when trailing by eight points with 4:19 left. Jordan, who had missed all four of his previous free throws, including an airball, continued to struggle, missing his next two attempts.
Rivers responded by yanking Jordan, but the Timberwolves merely shrugged and fouled his replacement, Ryan Hollins, who made one of two free throws.
Martin finished with 30 points, Love with 23 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists, and Pekovic had 25 points and 10 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who couldn’t complete the sweep of L.A. teams after beating the Lakers by 23 points on Sunday night.
Clippers reserve Matt Barnes had nine points in his return after sitting out the three previous games with a bruised thigh.
Rivers joked that he was going to hide under his bed after watching the Timberwolves drop 47 first-quarter points on the Lakers.
It was safe to come out after his Clippers held Minnesota to only 26 a night later, in part because Love went to the bench late in the quarter with two fouls.
There was also a re-emergence of the largely underperforming Clippers bench, which scored 21 consecutive points starting late in the first quarter to help L.A. take the lead.
Every point came in handy at the end.
“We’ll obviously take a win,” Griffin said, “but we got fortunate for them to miss two put-backs at the end.”