MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—After being embarrassed by the worst team in the league in a loss to the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Clippers held a players-only meeting to straighten things out heading into a game against the lowly Minnesota Timberwolves.
Time to meet again, guys.
Two nights after losing to the worst team in the East, the Clippers lost to the team with the Western Conference’s worst record, falling 111-97 to the Timberwolves on Friday night.
Al Jefferson(notes) scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, and the Timberwolves led by as many as 23 points in their 10th victory this season. Jefferson also had 16 rebounds and Ryan Hollins(notes) tied a career-high with 19 points for Minnesota.
“We just talked about salvaging the rest of this season and this thing’s not over for us and to put Wednesday’s loss behind us,” Marcus Camby(notes) said of the meeting. “Hopefully we could come out and respond the right way, but we didn’t.”
Baron Davis(notes) scored 23 of his 28 points in a brilliant third quarter, but the Clippers already had dug themselves too big a hole. They now have lost back-to-back games to the Nets and Wolves, teams that have combined for 14 wins.
For a team that had designs on scratching its way back into the playoff picture, losses like these are inexcusable.
“We hope they don’t catch up to us at the end of the year,” said Camby, who had 10 points and 19 rebounds. “But it seems to look that way as of right now.”
It didn’t help that the Clippers were playing without center Chris Kaman(notes), a wide body with scoring ability that gave the smaller Wolves frontcourt fits in the past. The team’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder missed the game with a sprained left ankle.
“We let two games get away that we should have won, had we played with the effort, had we played with the freedom and the mentality that we need to play with in order to be successful,” Davis said. “It only gets tougher from this point.”
The Timberwolves were coming off a brutal road trip and playing some of the worst basketball of this awful first season under new president David Kahn and coach Kurt Rambis.
The trip started in Milwaukee with a 33-point loss to the Bucks. They were blown out by the Knicks on Tuesday, trailing 15-0 at the start of the game to a team that lost by 50 the previous game. Then LeBron James(notes) and the Cavaliers toyed with them in Cleveland on Wednesday.
Searching for a spark for a team that had lost 14 of its previous 16 games, Rambis shuffled the starting lineup with the aim at making his first and second units more balanced. Damien Wilkins(notes) went to the bench and Hollins started at center.
For one night, it worked.
The Timberwolves got off to one of their best starts of the season, leading 19-5 in the first seven minutes. The Timberwolves shot 61 percent in the first half and led by as many as 23 points in the second quarter.
The Clippers starters missed 18 of their first 22 shots. Davis was 1 for 7 with two turnovers in the first half.
Corey Brewer(notes), who scored 20 points, hit a 3-pointer that gave the Timberwolves a 66-43 lead early in the third quarter before Davis went on a tear. He scored 21 of the Clippers’ next 30 points to get Los Angeles back in the game.
He tried to inspire his teammates on several occasions, including after a steal and a crazy flip over his head with Wilkins draped all over him. He finished the three-point play, then scored on a driving layup at the third period buzzer to make the score 82-73 headed to the fourth.
The Clippers cut the lead to 97-92 on Al Thornton’s(notes) 15-footer with 4:55 to play, but they could never come up with a timely defensive stop against a Timberwolves team that shot 52 percent in the game.
“Baron Davis showed that he’s still one of the elite players, but I liked that they hung in there when things weren’t going their way, they kept their heads up, they kept playing and finding ways to get stops, finding ways to score,” Rambis said. “They kept fighting, fighting, fighting and eventually got themselves a win.”
NOTES: Kaman is listed as day-to-day. Brian Skinner(notes) started in his place, but played just 5 minutes. … The Timberwolves held a moment of silence prior to the game for Glenda Taylor-Huston, owner Glen Taylor’s first wife, who died on Tuesday while vacationing in Egypt.