The Los Angeles Clippers had been in this position in their previous four road games. Each time the Clippers held a lead in the fourth quarter, and each time that lead quickly evaporated as the Clippers wilted under the pressure and eventually lost.
On Wednesday night, the Clippers again lost their fourth-quarter lead, but this time they came back to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves, 96-90. The win not only snapped the Clippers’ three-game road losing streak, but it gave the Clippers two straight wins and got the team's eight-game road trip off to a good start.
Here are three takeaways from the game:
No one has stepped up his game more in the absence of Chris Paul, who missed his eighth game with a bruised right kneecap, than Blake Griffin. For the third straight game Griffin had at least 23 points, finishing with 26 points and 13 rebounds. The only missing aspect of his final stat line was zero assists, after having a combined 19 in his previous two games. Griffin had only one shot attempt in the fourth quarter and it was all he and the Clippers really needed, as his falling-down circus shot in the paint with time running out on the shot clock clinched the win.
“I couldn’t find anybody and that’s actually how I imagined it in my mind -- falling down and making it,” Griffin jokingly told Prime Ticket after the game. “Thankfully, it went in and we got some stops. But my teammates did a good job down the stretch.”
Front line help
As well as Griffin has played, he has needed more help from his frontcourt teammates, and he got just that on Wednesday night from DeAndre Jordan and Caron Butler. Jordan finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. It was his first double-double since Jan. 1, his most rebounds since Nov. 23, and it was only the second time since Nov. 8 he had 16 or more points. Butler had 19 points and 5 rebounds and had a team-high 8 points in the third quarter.
“Everybody played well for us,” Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. “D.J. was very productive for us. Caron hit some shots and hit that big 3 in the right corner. It was a good team win for us, but we have do a better job of making the game easier with ball movement and making some shots and being a little more consistent defensively.”
Not only did the Clippers not have Paul and Chauncey Billups for the game, but Matt Barnes was ejected early in the second quarter with a flagrant-2 foul after shoving Greg Stiemsma around the throat after a hard screen. Butler and Ronny Turiaf also received technical fouls shortly after for going at Stiemsma as well. Barnes’ flagrant might also cost him another game or further discipline from the league. As much as the Clippers like Barnes’ toughness, now is not the time for him to be shoving players in the throat and missing games because of his temper. The rest of the Clippers also need to be smarter than following suit and getting involved in fights.
“We got to understand that there’s something bigger we’re fighting for,” Griffin said. “We have to keep our cool and do a better job of that.”