MINNEAPOLIS — Missing an All-Star, a Sixth Man of the Year frontrunner and two other notable players, the Los Angeles Clippers just keep rolling, right over the Minnesota Timberwolves 114-104 at Target Center.
Star forward Blake Griffin didn’t play because of back spasms that limited him to just six minutes in Saturday’s victory at Houston. Aforementioned Sixth-Man candidate Jamal Crawford’s troublesome calf injury manifested itself in his Achilles tendon Monday and he didn’t play, either. Nor did starting guard J.J. Redick and veteran Danny Granger.
And yet the Clippers used an overwhelming third quarter to win for the third time on a five-game trip that ends Wednesday in Phoenix.
They’ve won three consecutive games, five of six and 15 of their last 17 games. They also won for the 13th time in March alone.
Whether they play without All-Star point guard Chris Paul, as they did in January, or without Griffin as they did Monday, is nothing going to stop these Clippers now?
“Yeah, that’s the attitude,” coach Doc Rivers said. “That’s the attitude we have to have, no matter what obstacles we just keep playing. We have enough guys. That’s what we talked about today. We didn’t mention injuries. I just think if you go out and play, it’ll work out if you believe that and you play well.”
They did that Monday, particularly in a third quarter when they used a 34-7 burst to win the game and outscored the home team 34-15 overall in that quarter.
With Redick out since mid-February because of a bulging disc in his lower back, Rivers again started point guards Darren Collison and Christ Paul in the backcourt and Collison pushed the pace all night against a Wolves team weary from a loss in Brooklyn the night before.
Collison scored 16 of his game-high 28 points in that third quarter alone, many of them simply by beating the opposition down the floor.
The Clippers now are 12-1 this season when Collison and Paul start beside each other.
“I think we’ve proven we can play with one another,” Collison said. “It’s a good combination. Me and Chris are playing well with each other. When you have two point guards creating for one another and other people, it makes the game so much easier.”
The Clippers scored 13 of their 34 third-quarter points on fast breaks.
“I thought they were tired,” Clippers forward Jared Dudley said. “We knew they played last night. They weren’t getting back. The momentum kept building, they kept pressing and we got control pretty quick.”
With Griffin out, Dudley became a power forward for the night, starting against Wolves star Kevin Love and using his quickness and mobility for a 16-point night that made Love labor for all of his 20 points and 13 rebounds.
Dudley scored seven of his 16 in that third quarter that left the Wolves and their coach perplexed just trying to slow the Clippers, whether it was through effort and expending timeouts.
“I almost ran out of them,” Adelman said. “I don’t know what they would have done if I ran out of them.”
With Griffith out, Rivers told his players rebounding would prove crucial if his suddenly downsized team wanted to get out and run against a fatigued Wolves team.
So all Clippers center DeAndre Jordan did was grab 24 of them, a career high and the most by a Wolves opponent this season.
“I told him if he hadn’t bobbled the other nine, he could have had 30 rebounds tonight,” Rivers said. “I mean, honestly, he bobbled at least nine. He was amazing. He was getting rebounds all over the place. Think about it, he probably did lose six of them and he still had 24 rebounds. So that’s just amazing.”
The Clippers, now 53-22, remain firmly in third place in the Western Conference, behind San Antonio and Oklahoma City and ahead of Houston.
Asked if such trying times as Wednesday’s shorthanded game will help come the playoffs, Rivers said, “I don’t know if they can or they can’t. I don’t know if they hurt or if they help, either. But winning helps. Winning a game when your guys are out, that has to help team spirit.”
NOTES: Wolves C Nikola Pekovic played seven minutes Monday but no more because of a sore right ankle that has bothered him since January. He played two games and part of Monday’s after he had missed six games because of it. … Clippers All-Star F Blake Griffin did not play Monday because of back spasms that limited him to just six minutes in Saturday’s victory at Houston. Sixth man Jamal Crawford also didn’t play because of a sore Achilles tendon caused by a calf injury that caused him to miss eight of nine games earlier in March. Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he’ll consider resting Crawford for an extended period to let Crawford’s heal. G J.J. Redick (lower back) and F Danny Granger (hamstring) also didn’t play and neither did Wolves backup C Ronny Turiaf (bone knee bruise). … Wolves star F Kevin Love started and played regularly Monday after he cited exhaustion following Sunday’s loss at Brooklyn for a rare 14-point game that included just two points after halftime. … Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and teenage son Patrick attended the Clippers’ morning shootaround and Monday’s games as guests of Clippers All-Star Chris Paul and coach Doc Rivers. Patrick, 14, had a malignant tumor on his thyroid removed two weeks ago and Paul reached out by phone to him both before and after the operation. On Monday, father and son made the 4.5-hour trip from Iowa City and at Rivers’ invitation spent some time on the floor with the team at shootaround. … Wolves coach Rick Adelman hugged and patted Clippers F Hedo Turkoglu during the break between first and second quarters. Adelman coached Turkoglu in his first four NBA seasons in Sacramento.
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