Wolves coach Rick Adelman was back, as were two injured players, but Los Angeles spoiled the home team's good feelings.
The Los Angeles Clippers got mad Wednesday night, so the Timberwolves never could get even.
Only two weeks after they last won there, the Clippers went 2-for-2 at Target Center with a 96-90 victory inspired by a testy turn of events after which they turned an 11-point deficit into a four-point halftime lead that transformed the game.
Angered by Matt Barnes' ejection and a hard foul committed against Grant Hill in a matter of moments, the Clippers opened their traditional long February road trip, while the Grammys take over Staples Center back home in L.A., by first getting angry and then getting physical.
Afterward, Wolves guard J.J. Barea spoke about how a home team that welcomed back big Nikola Pekovic, rookie guard Alexey Shved, even coach Rick Adelman on Wednesday needs to toughen up.
"We've got a bunch of nice guys," he said.
The Clippers didn't consider Wolves center Greg Stiemsma one of those nice guys, not during that second-quarter sequence when Barnes delivered a forearm to Stiemsma's throat that earned him a flagrant foul type 2 and game ejection.
Not long after that, Caron Butler and Ronny Turiaf each got a technical for rushing at Stiemsma after he delivered a hard foul on Hill.
"Once I saw my big brother go down, it was a natural reaction," Butler said.
Barnes said he "kind of lost my control" after Steimsma delivered what he called a "couple dirty picks" and then laughed after Barnes warned him not to try another. Stiemsma said he was simply doing his job -- "set screens and be physical" -- and suggested "some guys take it over the top."
Barnes apologized to teammates after the game. "There is no excuse for that," he said. "Luckily, it sparked the team."
Trailing 38-27 after Butler and Turiaf each were whistled for a technical, the Clippers finished the first half on a 25-10 run.
"They turned it up, that helped them and hurt us," Barea said. "We didn't finish the quarter good. That was the game right there. It's got to be in our nature. We want to get a little bit better. We need to get a little tough. Just play harder."
The Wolves played hard enough to lead 88-87 with three minutes left, but with All-Star Kevin Love still probably two months away from playing, they couldn't get a rebound.
They also couldn't stop the Clippers' late 8-0 flourish that started when Butler hit a clutch corner three that put his team up for good at 90-88 with 2:45 left.
The Wolves dressed 12 healthy players for the first time since the day after Christmas -- "In warm-ups, it felt like there were too many people out there," Ricky Rubio said -- but the Clippers answered by going better and deeper, 11 men total even without injured All-Star Chris Paul and vet Chauncey Billups.
The Wolves lost for the 10 time in their last 12 games while Los Angeles, now 34-13, continues to chase Oklahoma City and San Antonio for the league's best record.
Adelman, coaching the Wolves for the first time since Jan. 5, talked about how his players once again "hung their heads" when the game didn't go their way.
"The Clippers are very physical," Adelman said. "You have to play through that in this league. They have a bit of a reputation now and it shows. It's something we have to learn. We have some young guys who aren't going to get calls and they are just going to have to play through it."
|Seattle - LP: C. Furbush||8||FINAL|
|Cleveland - WP: J. Smith||10|
|Tampa Bay - LP: J. Lueke||5||FINAL|
|Toronto - WP: R. Dickey||7|
|NY Yankees - WP: D. Robertson||6||FINAL|
|Baltimore - LP: P. Strop||4|
|Cincinnati - WP: J. Cueto||4||FINAL|
|NY Mets - LP: S. Marcum||3|
|Philadelphia - LP: C. Hamels||1||FINAL|
|Miami - WP: A. Sanabia||5|
|Minnesota - LP: K. Correia||1||FINAL|
|Atlanta - WP: J. Teheran||5|
|Oakland - WP: B. Colon||9||FINAL|
|Texas - LP: J. Lindblom||2|
|Los Angeles - WP: C. Kershaw||3||FINAL|
|Milwaukee - LP: Y. Gallardo||1|
|Boston - LP: J. Lester||4||FINAL|
|Chicago WSox - WP: D. Axelrod||6|
|Kansas City - LP: J. Guthrie||5||FINAL|
|Houston - WP: D. Keuchel||6|
|Arizona - WP: P. Corbin||5||FINAL|
|Colorado - LP: J. Garland||1|
|St. Louis - LP: S. Miller||2||FINAL|
|San Diego - WP: J. Marquis||4|
|Washington - LP: Z. Duke||0||FINAL|
|San Francisco - WP: R. Vogelsong||8|