Minneapolis, MN – Blake Griffin recorded a double-double with 26 points and 13 rebounds to help the Los Angeles Clippers take down the Minnesota Timberwolves, 96-90, at Target Center.
Caron Butler added 19 points, Jamal Crawford chipped in 17 points, and DeAndre Jordan donated 16 points and 12 boards for the Clippers, who have won two straight on the heels of a four-game skid.
"Good team win for us," Clippers head coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We have to do a better job of making the game easier with ball movement, making some shots and being a little more consistent defensively, but it's a good way to start the trip."
Chris Paul missed his fifth straight game with a bruised right kneecap, but Eric Bledsoe filled in admirably, finishing with 10 points, 10 assists and six steals in the triumph.
Nikola Pekovic posted a double-double in his return from a six-game absence, pouring in 17 points and grabbing 12 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves, who have lost five straight and 10 of their last 11.
The Clippers entered the fourth clinging to a 76-71 edge, and after Alexey Shved opened the final frame with a 3-pointer, Crawford countered with four straight points to push the margin to six.
Minnesota quickly answered, as J.J. Barea capped a 6-0 surge with a three- point play to knot the game at 80-80 with just under seven minutes left.
The teams exchanged buckets from there before a Pekovic layup gave Minnesota an 88-87 lead with three minutes remaining.
Butler buried a triple at the other end to put the Clippers back in front and the Timberwolves never recovered, as they missed their next four shots, including a potential game-tying trey from Andrei Kirilenko with 1:32 to play.
Los Angeles came up with a pair of big offensive rebounds on its ensuing possession before Griffin banked in a tough turnaround in the lane and knocked down the ensuing free throw to make it 94-88 with 30.1 ticks remaining.
Ricky Rubio then missed a jumper at the other end and the Clippers connected on 2-of-4 free throws to hang on for the victory.
"That's our problem in big games," Kirilenko said of his team's struggles down the stretch. "We play for 35 minutes of great basketball and we just couldn't finish the game. It's frustrating."
Early on, Minnesota led 25-23 after 12 minutes and opened the second on an 11-2 surge to take a double-digit advantage, but the Clippers closed the quarter on an 18-4 burst to take a 52-48 lead into the locker room.
A Jordan layup pushed the lead to 64-53 just over four minutes into the third before the Wolves clawed their way back with a 9-0 sprint capped by Rubio's driving layup with 5:18 left to make it a two-point contest.
The teams exchanged buckets from there until the Clippers closed the quarter on a quick 6-3 swing to take a 76-71 lead heading into the final frame.
Pekovic was out with a right thigh contusion ... Los Angeles had lost three straight on the road ... Minnesota is still without forward Kevin Love (hand), guard Brandon Roy (knee), and forward Chase Budinger (knee) ... Los Angeles outscored Minnesota 23-13 in second-chance points.