Kevin Love's buzzer-beater caps off Wolves' comeback win over Clippers
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The Minnesota Timberwolves spent less than two minutes of their Friday night road match-up with the Los Angeles Clippers in possession of the lead.
But that proved to be all the time they needed.
Found wide-open at the top of the key off a well-timed in-bounds pass from Luke Ridnour, forward Kevin Love drilled a 3-point jumper at the buzzer to cap off a 101-98 victory -- the Wolves' third straight -- that was set into motion by a dramatic fourth quarter comeback.
Plunged into an early deficit, the Wolves (7-8), who trailed by as many as 15 points, squandered numerous opportunities to overtake the lead. That was until a scoring run in the waning minutes of the game put them in position for the win.
The Clippers (8-5) appeared to have resolved enough defensively to hold on, but a 3-pointer in the corner by Wolves' rookie guard Ricky Rubio, who had been 0-for-10 from the floor up until that point, knotted the score at 98 apiece 20 seconds from the final buzzer.
Clippers' guard Chauncey Billups missed on a decent looking lay-up on the other end, mistakenly leaving 1.5 seconds on clock that ultimately set-up Love for his game-winning shot.
Struggling center Darko Milicic broke out of his recent slump in an emphatic way. He led the Wolves with a season-high 22 points -- his highest scoring burst in more than a year -- before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.
Love followed with 17 points of his own, to go along with 14 rebounds, for his 15th straight double-double of the year.
Blake Griffin and sixth-man Mo Williams combined for 46 points and had the Clippers primed for their eighth straight home win this season. However, they were outscored 29-19 in the fourth quarter.
Los Angeles got their transition game up and running right away in the first quarter.
Former Timberwolves guard Randy Foye knocked in consecutive 3-pointers to give the Clippers a 10-point lead by the three-minute mark.
The disjointed Wolves were rendered nearly helpless for the remainder of the half largely in part to Williams' contributions from off the bench. The Clippers' point guard had 21 of his 25 points before halftime, including a running jumper at the end of the second quarter that gave his team a comfortable 59-48 lead.
The Wolves' offense resuscitated in spurts. They briefly cut the deficit to 62-60 less than four minutes into the third quarter. However, that run was ended seconds later as Los Angeles continued to keep its opponent at bay.
They showed life again in the latter minutes of the fourth quarter. A 13-4 run, paired with an array of botched Clippers' shots, brought the Wolves to within three-points, positioning Rubio and Love for their late-game heroics.
Nursing an 89-77 lead, the Clippers went through a four-minute stretch without a bucket, to which the Wolves finally were able to take advantage.
Four different players contributed points as the Wolves scored nine unanswered. Los Angeles came back with what seemed to be enough of a rebuttal to make the difference, but the Wolves had received enough of a boost from their previous run to push them over the threshold in the game's final minutes.
3: Road victories for the Wolves this season, putting them two shy from tying last year's total.
5:22: Time remaining in the second quarter when Rubio picked up his third foul of the game, forcing the rookie point guard to sit for the remainder of the half.
10: Points tallied by Milicic in the first quarter -- four more than his combined total in his last six games (6).
7: Straight shots made from the floor by the Clippers' Mo Williams before he missed on an 18-foot jumper with 39 seconds left in the first half.
2: Technical fouls picked up by Williams -- the last of which by rule resulted in his ejection in the fourth quarter.
The Wolves' back-to-back, two-game road trip concludes on Saturday with a visit to Salt Lake City to meet surging Northwest Division foe the Utah Jazz (9-5), who are winners of eight of their last 10 games.