Billups' return inspires Clippers in win over Timberwolves

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

By Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
LOS ANGELES -- It took one play on Wednesday night for Chauncey Billups to remind Los Angeles Clippers fans about what his veteran presence can mean to the team.
It took one more play to remind the rest of the league.
Billups hit a 3-pointer on the Clippers' first offensive possession and found DeAndre Jordan for a beautiful alley-oop dunk with 16.6 seconds left in Billups' first court time since suffering a torn Achilles tendon in February, lifting the Clippers to the 101-95 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves at Staples Center.
Billups' backcourt mate, Chris Paul, then made all four of his free throws in the last 12 seconds to help seal the win, breaking a four-game losing streak for the Clippers (9-6).
"It just feels good (to be back)," said Billups, who scored seven points in 19-plus minutes. "It's been a really long road. Achilles' rehab is really tough. But I never lost faith the entire time."
Paul finished with a game-high 23 points and 11 assists. Blake Griffin added 18 points, DeAndre Jordan had 15 for the Clippers.
"It meant a lot," Paul said of Billups' return. "I told him before the game I've been waiting a long time to get him back on the court. Before the game I said, 'Did you want to work up to it or get your shot?' First play we went to him, and that shot, I think it woke us up."
Kevin Love had 19 points to lead five Timberwolves in double-figures, but he made 3-for-12 from the field and 1-for-5 from 3-point range. Love added 12 rebounds, and Nikola Pekovic had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota (6-8), which led 77-76 going into the fourth quarter.
"I didn't shoot well -- poor percentage from the free-throw line, poor percentage from 3-point line," Love said. "It's tough right now, but the only thing I can do is play hard as I can. The majority of my missed shots are 3-point attempts, but I'm not going to stop shooting them. There's going to come a point and time when I hit five, 10 in a row and get my touch back."
Los Angeles atoned for being outrebounded 52-35 by forcing 18 Minnesota turnovers and holding the Timberwolves to 37.8 percent shooting.
"That's probably like the third or fourth game we've lost this season like that," said Minnesota guard Malcolm Lee., who had 10 points and seven rebounds before fouling out. "It gets real frustrating when basically we control the game throughout the whole 48 minutes and lose, but at the end of the day, I think this will make us stronger as a team."
The Clippers bench, which had struggled lately, had 36 points to boost the effort, with Matt Barnes and Jamal Crawford combining for 24 points.
The Clippers came back from as much as nine down in the first-half to take a 57-55 lead into the break despite being outrebounded 23-16.
Paul had 11 first-half points on 5-for-7 shooting and added six assists. Griffin and Jordan each contributed eight points before the break.
"Chris Paul was their leader, their best player and he made plays for them," Love said. "That's the only thing I can think of, because we fought. We missed some shots but that was it."
NOTES: Billups averaged 15 points, four assists and 2.5 rebounds in his 20 games for the Clippers last season before tearing his left Achilles tendon on Feb. 6 at Orlando. ... The Timberwolves won the season series 3-1 last season, with the wins accounting for more than 10 percent of their season win total (26). Los Angeles won the teams' final matchup last season on April 12, 95-82. ... Caron Butler's two points came two days after he set Clippers records for 3-pointers made in a game (nine), half (seven) and quarter (six) in a 33-point outburst during Los Angeles' 105-98 loss to the New Orleans Hornets.

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