Towns, Wiggins lead Timberwolves past Clippers
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Karl-Anthony Towns racked up 30 points and 10 rebounds for his NBA-best 60th double-double and Andrew Wiggins scored 27 points in an all-around performance, leading the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 123-109 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday night that was critical for their push for the playoffs.
Jeff Teague pitched in 20 points and 12 assists for the Timberwolves, who swept the four-game season series and sent the weary Clippers to their fourth consecutive loss on the commencement of a four-game, six-night trip.
Jamal Crawford scored 20 points and Taj Gibson had 15 points and eight rebounds as the Timberwolves pushed their lead over the Clippers (37-33) to three games. With five losses in their last seven games, the Wolves (41-31) had fallen into eighth place in the Western Conference. Denver (38-33) is in ninth.
DeAndre Jordan led the way for the Clippers with 18 points and 12 rebounds, but Tobias Harris played with flu-like symptoms and finished with only 10 points on 5-for-16 shooting, missing all five of his 3-point tries. Lou Williams and Sean Kilpatrick each had 15 points off the bench.
Neither team led by more than six points until the Wolves awoke early in the third quarter and used a 13-0 run to build a 72-59 advantage.
Just as they did on Sunday night to make a noncompetitive matchup Houston close in the waning minutes after the Rockets agitated them with some rough stuff, the Wolves snapped back when the Clippers engaged them in some extra-physical play. Towns took his share of hard contact underneath by the much burlier Jordan and Montrezl Harrell. Gibson and Teague each had blood drawn by inadvertent elbows or forearms to the face.
Wiggins went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the third, and he also matched his career high with three blocks while displaying energy and hustle on both ends of the floor. Wiggins has scored 20 or more points in nine of his last 11 games, going 21-for-45 from 3-point range in that span.
The Clippers have recovered deftly from their 8-15 start, their record after a 113-107 loss at home to the Timberwolves on Dec. 6, and withstood the departure via trade of former franchise cornerstone Blake Griffin, but they’ve left themselves with no room in this postseason race for even a mini-slump.
Coach Doc Rivers lamented his team’s depleted roster before the game, with a total of 219 games missed by 11 players who’ve been injured. That includes 16 absences by Griffin but most notably still-missing Danilo Gallinari (51 games), Patrick Beverley (59 games) and Avery Bradley (14 games).
“Every day it seems like something else,” Rivers said.
The Timberwolves have the schedule in their favor in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time in 14 years, with eight of their final 10 games against teams below the cut for the postseason. They play Denver, one of their closest competitors, twice. But there are six other matchups against opponents whose next drama will be the draft lottery.
The Clippers have 12 games left, with nine against teams on a postseason track plus one against the Nuggets. This matchup in Minnesota began a stretch of six out of seven games on the road.
Denver also has a difficult remaining 11-game slate, with only two matchups, Wednesday at Chicago and April 7 at the Clippers, coming against opponents currently outside the top eight in either conference. The Nuggets, too, have five stops left on a seven-game road trip to finish the month.
Clippers: Jordan’s streak of 15 or more rebounds ended at 10 straight games, which matched the longest run of his career and the most by any active NBA player. … Harrell, who had 24 points against Portland on Sunday and was in double digits in 24 of his last 30 games, had nine points on 3-for-9 shooting.
Timberwolves: Derrick Rose, who had nine points in six minutes, sprained his right ankle in the second quarter and didn’t return. Rose, who joined the team less than two weeks ago, had 14 points in 19 minutes against the Rockets. … The Wolves are 9-3 when Teague has 20 or more points. … The Wolves improved to 30-15 against the Western Conference this season. They’ve swept the Clippers two other times in franchise history, in 1997-98 and 2003-04.
Clippers: At Milwaukee on Wednesday night.
Timberwolves: At New York on Friday night.