Published February 16, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS – Blake Griffin appeared to be starting his first All-Star weekend in style, with a 29-point, eight-rebound, five-assist thrashing of Western Conference teammate Kevin Love in the Los Angeles Clippers' 98-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
When reporters entered the locker room after the game, Griffin was anything but jubilant. His head was in his hands after receiving a phone call and he was sobbing.
Griffin, who is scheduled to compete in the slam dunk contest on Saturday in Los Angeles, did not speak to reporters after the game, with a team spokesman calling it an unspecified personal issue.
Former Timberwolves Randy Foye scored 21 points and Ryan Gomes added 18 to help the Clippers to just their second win of an eight-game road trip.
"Considering where we're at healthwise, considering the length of the trip, considering everything thrown at us, we'll take the win tonight and focus on the improvements we made tonight," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said.
Love had 18 points and 18 rebounds for his 42nd double-double in a row. But he was slowed in the second quarter after briefly leaving with a right shoulder injury and didn't have near the impact of Griffin, who will play with Love on Sunday in Los Angeles.
The Wolves shot 35 percent and missed 11 free throws to lose their fourth straight game. They are 0-5 at home in February.
"I hate to say it, but if there has ever been a team I have been around that needs the break, this is the team," Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said.
The Clippers staggered into Target Center on the final game of a marathon 14-day road trip. They had already lost back-to-back games to Cleveland and Toronto before finishing the eight-game trip with a game against the worst team in the West.
They got a small boost by the return of center Chris Kaman, who played nine minutes in his first action in 35 games. He has missed 45 games total this season with an injured left ankle, and Del Negro saw his return as a hopeful sign that they were finally starting to get healthy. Star guard Eric Gordon hasn't played since Jan. 22, but Del Negro said he thought Gordon would return next week after the break.
The Timberwolves can relate. They were missing Michael Beasley for the fifth game in a row because of a sprained left ankle. They also shut point guard Jonny Flynn for a week to continue his recovery from hip surgery.
"We can't make excuses, we're tired, we're hurt, whatever," center Darko Milicic said. "We're missing everything."
Love got off to a fast start with six points and 10 rebounds in the first quarter, but he was slowed in the second when he bruised his right shoulder.
"It felt like my whole arm caught fire," he said.
The Clippers have traveled more than 6,500 miles on the road trip thanks to the Grammy Awards being held at Staples Center.
Griffin has become one of the biggest attractions in the NBA during a sensational rookie season, and he gave the curious crowd what they came for with a soaring one-handed dunk three minutes into the game. He had another breakaway later in the quarter and leaped high in the air, his head above the rim, before softly throwing the ball through the basket.
That didn't sit well with the Target Center crowd, which booed him more loudly than they have the struggling home team at any point this season.
Griffin obliged later in the game with two more sky-walking dunks, one on an alley-oop from Eric Bledsoe, and nearly knocked himself out in the final two minutes.
Baron Davis tossed another alley-oop toward the rim, and Griffin leaped into the air only to hit his head on the side of the backboard, perhaps his greatest display of athleticism of the night.
"At home and on the road, he's an exciting player to watch, to get the fans out of their seats," Foye said. "Just like in baseball, chicks dig the long ball. Chicks dig when guys can fly and jump."
NOTES: Love's 51 double-doubles before the All-Star break is a league record. George Mikan had 50 in 1950. ... Wolves rookie Wes Johnson was 0 for 2 in 10 minutes and is 4 for 25 in his last four games. ... Gomes' 18 points were his most in the last 27 games. ... The Clippers go home for the break, but have three more road games after the break.