Timberwolves 101, Clippers 87
Kevin Garnett had 32 points and nine rebounds, and the Timberwolves snapped a six-game losing streak with a 101-87 victory over the Clippers on Saturday night.
Mike James added 17 points and seven boards, helping the Timberwolves end the Clippers’ four-game winning streak and pull even with them for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot at 21-22. The victory came in their third game since Randy Wittman replaced Dwane Casey as coach on Tuesday.
“It feels good to get a win,” Garnett said. “We’ve been playing real hard. This has been a difficult week for all of us, and we’re just trying to grind it out the best way we can. Randy’s definitely trying to find us and get us to believe in what we’re consistent at and what we’re good at—and that’s defense.”
Playing their fifth game in seven nights, the Timberwolves allowed only one field goal over the final 7:20 against a lethargic Clippers squad coming off an emotional one-point win over New Jersey on Thursday night at Staples Center.
Los Angeles had 15 turnovers in the first half and a season-high 26 overall against a team that had forced an average of just 11.2 over its previous 13 games. The Timberwolves converted those turnovers into 32 points.
“We did everything to beat ourselves tonight,” Cassell said. “You have to credit their defense because they took advantage of our turnovers. All of these games are big for us, but this game was huge. We just didn’t take advantage of it.”
The Clippers finished with 12 assists as a team, equaling a season low. It’s the first time in eight games that they had fewer than 20. Cassell, hounded most of the night by Ricky Davis, had just four assists and 14 points in 34 minutes.
“The last couple of times we played the Clippers, Sam got off to quick starts. But Ricky has the energy of a locomotive and he did a great job on Sam,” Garnett said.
“The Clippers aren’t the most passive team, and we know Sam gets that team going. We know the other guys don’t really share the ball like he does and they tend to look for their numbers. So we knew if we could contain Sam and keep the flow to our type of flow, then they would start to get erratic and take some weird shots. And that’s how it worked out.”
Elton Brand had 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Clippers, who were trying to move above .500 for the first time since Dec. 9 and sweep a homestand of more than four games for the first time since 1978-79—when the team was based in San Diego. They have lost 13 of the last 17 meetings with Minnesota.
“We had way too many turnovers that let them get easy buckets,” said Brand, who had five turnovers. “We were sloppy. When you have guys like Kevin Garnett, Mike James and Davis making shots, they can hurt you.”
Trailing 46-38 at halftime, the Clippers finally caught the Timberwolves at 72-all on two free throws by Tim Thomas with 10:21 remaining. They pulled ahead 42 seconds later on two more foul shots by Shaun Livingston.
“As badly as we played,” coach Mike Dunleavy said, “I told the guys at the beginning of the fourth quarter, `I can’t believe we can play any worse than this—and it is still a three-point ballgame.’ “
But Randy Foye made a 3-pointer and layup 29 seconds apart, putting Minnesota back in front 77-74 with 8:48 to play and ending an 8:07 stretch in which the Timberwolves missed nine consecutive shots.
Cassell’s two free throws gave the Clippers the lead for the final time at 81-80 with 6:36 left. The Timberwolves reeled off the next 10 points, a run that included two free throws by Davis after a flagrant foul by Thomas. Los Angeles got no closer than seven after that.
Cuttino Mobley, whose last-second 3-pointer beat the Nets 102-101, started out 0-for-4 from the field against the Timberwolves and finished 1-for-9 with six points in 35 minutes. His only basket was a 21-footer 32 seconds into the third quarter.
When Cassell is in the lineup, the Clippers are 15-14 against the other six teams he played for—including 4-3 against Minnesota. The 14-year veteran, who appeared in his only All-Star game while a member of the Timberwolves, scored 31 points against them on Nov. 25 in a 104-96 road loss. … Los Angeles backup C Zeljko Rebraca will undergo season-ending surgery in his lower back on Tuesday to remove herniated disc fragments. … Minnesota F Mark Madsen turns 31 years old on Sunday.