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Clippers-Timberwolves Preview

AP - Sports

With their All-Star point guard banged up, the Los Angeles Clippers have struggled on the road lately. Perhaps it's not the best time for their longest trip of the season.

They open the eight-game swing against the Minnesota Timberwolves, who have had to deal with their own injuries and adversity during a long slump.

The Clippers try to avoid a fourth straight road loss Wednesday night when they face a Timberwolves team that will have its coach back after a three-week absence.

Los Angeles (33-13) won its first three games after Chris Paul went down with a bruised right kneecap, but it has dropped three of its last four without him.

While he returned for two games, Paul had to be shut down again after finishing with a season-low four points and shooting 1 of 7 in a 104-96 loss to Golden State on Jan. 21.

The point guard is day-to-day and coach Vinny Del Negro said there is no timetable for his return.

Eric Bledsoe will continue to fill Paul's role as the Clippers try to avoid dropping four in a row on the road for the first time since Dec. 28, 2011-Jan. 25, 2012.

In seven starts since Paul's injury, Bledsoe has averaged 11.9 points, 5.6 rebounds and 4.0 assists.

Bledsoe played 36 minutes without committing a turnover as Los Angeles stopped a four-game slide with a 96-83 win over Portland on Sunday. He's had three or fewer turnovers in six of the seven starts.

Blake Griffin has also raised his game lately, averaging 23.2 points, 6.8 assists and 57.5 percent shooting in his last five. He's averaged 24.0 points in 10 career games against the Timberwolves.

"It's everybody's job on this team to step up, and that's what I've tried to do,'' Griffin said. "Chris is a huge part of our team and he directs the game from the point guard spot."

The Clippers shot 51.2 percent against the Trail Blazers, improving to 14-1 when they make at least 50.0 percent from the field.

Minnesota (17-24) has allowed teams to shoot 54.5 percent in the last two games, but it's held nine straight opponents under 50.0 at home.

The Timberwolves, who have been without several key players due to injury, hope to get back on track on their home court with Rick Adelman back on the bench.

Minnesota went 2-9 without Adelman, who was with his wife as she dealt with seizures. The Wolves have alternated losses and wins in their last seven home games.

"You feel the positive emotions get back," forward Andrei Kirilenko said of Adelman's return. "You were feeling down, but now you feel everything getting back to normal."

Kirilenko has hit 54.5 percent from the floor in his last five games.

Luke Ridnour finished with a season-high 22 points in a 102-101 loss at Charlotte on Saturday - Minnesota's fourth consecutive defeat. The guard led the Timberwolves with 21 points in a 90-77 loss to the Clippers in the last meeting Jan. 17.

Minnesota has reached 100 points in back-to-back contests after failing to score that many while averaging 88.8 in its previous eight.

Los Angeles will try for its third win in as many matchups with Minnesota this season, and fourth in five games at Minneapolis.

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