Kevin Love was still shaking his right arm — buzzing after getting his elbow hammered a couple of times — and shaking his head. A few feet away, Corey Brewer was checking out the enormous scrape on his right knee, which came courtesy of DeAndre Jordan’s flagrant foul
midway through the final quarter.
Kevin Martin, seemingly too tired to get up and shower, sat in front of his stall, both knees being iced.
“We’re in a tough stretch right now,” Martin said. “But we’re going to find out what this team is really about.”
The Timberwolves — tired, beat up, maybe a little frustrated — brought too much of their struggling offense back with them from Washington. The result: a 102-98 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday at Target Center in a game that had more runs than an old pair of nylons. This loss, the Wolves’ second in a row, came courtesy of Clippers guard Chris Paul. He scored 16 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter, thwarting Minnesota’s last-gasp comeback attempts.
“It was up and down, it was back and forth,” Wolves guard J.J. Barea said. “But they had the last run.”
And Paul had the last laugh.
In the final moments of the game he was amazing, scoring 13 Clippers points in a row in the last four minutes as the Clippers (8-4) kept the Wolves at bay.
“That’s why he’s a superstar,” said Martin, who scored a game-high 28 points — 15 in the fourth quarter as he and Paul traded baskets.
But the bottom line is Tuesday’s poorly-played loss in Washington has now become a two-game losing streak, with back-to-back games against Brooklyn (home) and Houston (road) looming Friday and Saturday. And then, two days later, a game at Indiana.
“We have a murderers’ row coming here,” said Love, who admitted to letting emotions get the better of him. Love played hard, with eight assists and 12 rebounds. But, on a night when he said he felt the Clippers were allowed to bang him around, he shot only 2-for-14 from the field on the way to 10 points.
But what a crazy game. The Clippers opened it with a 12-0 run and had an 11-0 run to start the second. Each time the Wolves, who got 20 points from Nikola Pekovic and 17 from Brewer, fought their way back; the score was tied at 24 after 12 minutes and at 46 at the half.
But Blake Griffin scored 14 of his 20 points in the third quarter, which ended with the Clippers up 71-67. And then L.A. started the fourth quarter on a 10-3 run to go up 81-70 with 7:37 remaining.
The Wolves almost came back. Pekovic had six points in an 8-0 run that drew the Wolves within three at 81-78 with 5:20 left, only to have Paul hit a three-pointer 13 seconds later. The Wolves responded with a 7-2 run to draw within 86-85 on Martin’s three-pointer with four minutes left, but Paul responded with a three-point play. After Brewer cut it to two on the break, Paul hit another three, then an 18-footer to push the lead back to seven with 2:32 to play. The Wolves never got closer than three points after that.
But there was too much Paul, who has opened the season getting a double-double in all 12 games, a record for an NBA point guard. And not enough offense from the Wolves at a difficult point in the schedule.
“We’ll just have to steal a game or two,” Love said. “The good thing is, with this team … we’re only going to get better. This is one of those nights you just have to scratch. We didn’t shoot the ball well. But we’ve played right there with this Clippers team.”