Not having Blake Griffin on the floor didn’t stop the Los Angeles Clippers from running all over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 114-104 win that wasn’t that close, with Chris Paul making everyone feel involved, and especially Darren Collison, leading both teams in scoring.
Blake Griffin missed his first game of the season, but that didn’t matter. The Clippers started with Jared Dudley and Matt Barnes in the forward position, while DeAndre Jordan made up for Griffin’s rebounds by picking up 24, including 10 on offense as the Minnesota Timberwolves looked like a bunch that didn’t shop up for the game, maybe starting to realize that their faint hopes of making the playoffs have been decimated, and it might be better to take it easy or in other words tank.
Collison led the teams with 28 points, as the Clippers took over the game with a 31-5 run in the third quarter, finishing the game despite the Timberwolves leading 59-57 before that collapse happened. The Timberwolves did get a strong fourth quarter from their bench, including 11 points from Shabazz Muhammad and 14 points from Gorgui Dieng, but it was far from enough, only letting the scoreline look a bit more respectable.
For the Clippers, it seemed that Griffin not playing only motivated those who were to play better than usual. Jamal Crawford was out with an injury as well, so both Paul and Collison didn’t get much rest. It didn’t seem to bother them. Paul scored 22 points to go with 7 rebounds and 9 assists, while Matt Barnes, playing more as a power forward, scored 19 points next to Jared Dudley who had 16.
The Clippers were devastating in transition and scored 20 points on the fast break. They had a very easy time turning the pace up and watching the Timberwolves fade away in the dust, while Nikola Pekovic left the game at some point with an ankle problem coming back to haunt him.
The Clippers have clinched a playoff spot and have a very good chance of finishing with more wins than ever before, breaking the 56 wins by the team last season. At 53-22, there’s plenty of reasons to believe they’ll get to that mark, and that their third spot in the West is safe, two games ahead of the Houston Rockets while too far behind both the Spurs and Thunder to catch up.
But the Clippers will try to break that mold of good but not great in the postseason. They’ve shown it often this season with Blake Griffin taking another step towards being more than just a highlight machine, Chris Paul doing what everyone expects him to while players like Matt Barnes and Darren Collison have stepped up. Will it be enough? The Clippers believe they’re good enough to do better than in 2012 and 2013.
That’s the attitude that we have to have that no matter what the obstacles you just keep playing. We have enough guys, and that’s what we talked about today. We didn’t mention the injuries. You just go out and play and it’ll work out if you believe that and play well. Everyone keeps track. We know we have another game against (the Thunder) at home and we’re just trying to win every game. We want that 2 seed and we know the 1 seed could be tough because San Antonio hasn’t lost in a month or so.