Wolves unravel in second half of loss to Griffin-less Clippers
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Darren Collison had 28 points and seven assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers didn't miss a beat with Blake Griffin out with a back injury in a 114-104 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night.
Chris Paul had 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds, and Matt Barnes scored 19 points for the Clippers (53-22). Griffin, the team's leading scorer, warmed up before the game but wasn't quite ready after being injured on Saturday night against Houston.
Jared Dudley started in his place and scored 16 points, while DeAndre Jordan grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds to help the Clippers pull within two games of Oklahoma City for the second seed in the West.
Kevin Love had 20 points, 13 rebounds and four assists for the Wolves.
The Clippers were also missing super sub Jamal Crawford with a calf injury, but they were facing a Wolves playing on the second night of a back-to-back that increasingly has the look of a team that is just waiting for the season to end.
The Clippers hit 12 of 30 3-pointers and blew the game wide open with a 31-5 run in the third quarter. The Wolves led 59-57 early in the period, but Collison scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting in the quarter. The Clippers put their foot on the gas, scoring 13 points in transition during the surge, and punctuating it with a lob pass from Paul to Jordan for an 86-64 lead.
Nikola Pekovic left seven minutes into the game when his bothersome right ankle flared up again, and only a spirited effort by Shabazz Muhammad (11 points) and the Timberwolves bench in the fourth quarter kept the game from getting out of hand.
The Clippers went 13-2 in March, their second-best month in franchise history, and have won 16 of their last 18 to improve to more than 30 games over .500 for the first time in the team's 44-year history.
And Paul has instilled this team with a nastiness that could serve it well in the postseason. With a 14-point lead and just over four minutes to play, the 6-foot Paul went up to swat a dunk attempt by Minnesota's 6-foot-11 rookie Gorgui Dieng. Paul was called for a foul, but he also sent Dieng crashing to the court.
The Timberwolves were supposed to be in the playoff picture with the Clippers this season, but their 36-37 record to this point makes them one of the biggest disappointments in the league.
Ricky Rubio had just three points on 1-for-6 shooting with five turnovers, Love was 8 for 21 and Kevin Martin was a non-factor with 12 points on 4-for-14 shooting.
The Clippers hosted Iowa coach Fran McCaffery and his 14-year-old son, Patrick, who had a malignant tumor removed from his thyroid last month. Paul has been a vocal supporter of Patrick's ever since first hearing about the boy's situation. Patrick is a big fan of Paul, and the All-Star guard called him the day before he had surgery. ... Glen Davis had two points in four minutes after getting sent to the locker room against Houston for what Clippers coach Doc Rivers called an attitude problem. ... Love set the franchise record for made free throws in the first quarter, surpassing the 465 made by Tom Gugliotta in 1996-97.© The Associated Press