Timberwolves-Clippers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves have long been recognized as two of the least successful franchises in the NBA.

While it's safe to say the Clippers have transformed themselves into one of the league's better teams, the Timberwolves have also made strides.

Los Angeles looks to extend its home winning streak to eight Friday night against a Minnesota team seeking a third consecutive victory for the first time in almost two years.

The Clippers, whose winning percentage of 31.4 over the previous four seasons ranks second lowest in the league in front of only the Timberwolves' 23.8, are enjoying plenty of success behind a revamped lineup.

The additions of former All-Stars Caron Butler, Chauncey Billups and most notably superstar point guard Chris Paul have turned Los Angeles (8-4) into a likely playoff contender.

Playing without Paul (strained left hamstring) for the third consecutive game, the Clippers - who've already posted wins over Miami and the Lakers - pulled out another impressive victory Wednesday. Billups scored 21 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with a second remaining to hand Dallas a 91-89 defeat.

"We beat a good team tonight without our best player, so it was big for us, confidence-wise," said guard Mo Williams, who returned from a three-game absence due to a sore right foot to score 26 points.

"For us, to be able to do these things that we're doing, we've got veteran guys that relish these moments."

Minnesota has won three of four after losing seven of its first 10, beating Detroit 93-85 on Wednesday to improve to 6-8. The Timberwolves didn't post their sixth win last season until game No. 23.

They trailed by seven after three quarters but limited the Pistons to 14 points over the final 12 minutes. Minnesota hasn't won three in a row since a four-game run Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010.

"We have a lot of fight in us," swingman Wes Johnson told the team's official website. "Last year we would have laid down a lot more. But I think at those points, the mindset has changed so much starting with training camp. I think that rolled into the season.

"We've got a lot of stuff to work on, but for our group I think our mindset is changing."

Much of the Timberwolves' success can be linked to a tremendous defensive improvement. Minnesota is giving up 92.5 points per game after allowing a league-worst 107.7 in 2010-11.

"It feels good. It's something that's been lacking the last few years," said Kevin Love, who posted his 14th straight double-double to start the season with 20 points and 17 rebounds Wednesday. "In games like this where it's ugly on the offensive end, we were still able to get the job done."

Love ranks near the top of the league with averages of 25.2 points and 14.5 boards, and he figures to match up with reigning rookie of the year Blake Griffin.

Griffin, averaging team bests of 21.3 points and 11.8 rebounds, had a season-high 17 boards versus the Mavericks.

Paul, averaging 21.1 points and 10.5 assists lifetime versus the Timberwolves, is uncertain to suit up Friday.

Minnesota's Michael Beasley has missed the last seven contests with a sprained right foot and didn't travel with the team as it begins a two-game trip.

Los Angeles has taken six of the last eight meetings in this series, winning all four at home by an average of 11.3 points.

What to Read Next