Clippers defense leads to nail-biter win over Timberwolves

Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports
Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 32 points and helped and helped his team to win back-to-back games.

The Los Angeles Clippers were able to cross an item off of their season bucket list Sunday in Minnesota when they beat the Timberwolves in a physically demanding bout.

The Western Conference showdown at the Target Center came down to the final seconds after both teams struggled from the field throughout. Los Angeles shot 37.6% while holding the Timberwolves to 39% and 27% from deep.

Star guard Kawhi Leonard led the way for the Clippers with 32 points and helped his team force Minnesota to back-to-back losses.

“This was an old-school, 1985 game,” Los Angeles coach Tyronn Lue said. “But I loved the way we kept competing and kept guarding, defending.”

Turning point: The Clippers started off slow, finding themselves in a 16-point deficit in the first half. Some dominant defense held Minnesota to 37% from the field in the second quarter, allowing the Clippers to lead 49-46 into the second half.

Eventually the teams found themselves still neck-and-neck at 84 all in the fourth. Anthony Edwards got a dunk to make it a one-point game with three seconds left, his only points of the period. But Leonard managed to tip the ball up off an inbound and run the lock out.

“We just had to stay in it, stay with it,” George said. “Shots weren’t falling for both sides. I thought we just stayed in and played a full 48 minutes. We weren’t making shots. Only other thing we could have done is made it tough for them to make shots.”

What it means: With Sunday’s win, the Clippers advance to 39-20 and move just one game behind in the loss column from top-seeded Minnesota. The same LA team that started the season 2-8 now has defeated every team in the Western Conference at least once this season.

They are also the first team this season to win a game while scoring 92 or fewer points.

Hits: Norman Powell gave the Clippers the spark they needed in the first half with some vital made threes.  Powell matched his season-high with 24 points while finishing 6-8 from beyond the arc. 

Him and Leonard combined for 56 points to outscore the rest of the Clippers players, who collected 33.

Misses: Russell Westbrook was absent from the Clippers starting lineup after fracturing his left hand in a victory over Washington Friday night. There is no update or timeline on his return.  

Outside of injuries, James Harden stacked 10 assists for LA, but went 0-for-10 in shooting.

Stat of the game: Los Angeles commanded the fast-break column, posting a 19-0 scoring advantage. It was the most fast break points the Clippers outscored by a team this season. The team also scored 20 points off 15 Minnesota turnovers.

Up next: The Clippers will have to bring their momentum to the court as soon as tomorrow when they visit the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum.