MINNEAPOLIS (AP) –– The Los Angeles Clippers don’t take kindly to being pushed around.
Blake Griffin had 26 points and 13 rebounds, and DeAndre Jordan added 16 points and 12 boards to lift the Los Angeles Clippers to a 96-90 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night.
Caron Butler had 19 points and Jamal Crawford scored 17 for the Clippers.
Nikola Pekovic had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who had coach Rick Adelman on the sideline for the first time since Jan. 5. Adelman missed the previous 11 games while his wife sought treatment for seizures.
Tempers flared in the first half when Matt Barnes was ejected and Wolves center Greg Stiemsma floored Grant Hill. But the Clippers got physical and handed the Wolves their fifth straight loss.
The Wolves went 2-9 in Adelman’s absence. But the downtrodden team played with much more confidence with their leader back on the bench.
J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved led an 8-2 burst that tied the game and Andriei Kirilenko’s transition layup gave Minnesota an 86-84 lead with four minutes to go.
But the Clippers got a big 3-pointer from Butler and knocked the smaller Wolves to the court for several loose balls. Griffin muscled home a three-point play with 30 seconds to go to close the game out.
Barea had 14 points and Shved 12.
The Clippers entered the game having lost four of their last five and looking a little disjointed without star point guard Chris Paul, who is out with a knee injury.
Griffin has elevated his game in Paul’s absence, entering the night averaging 23.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and a staggering 6.8 assists in the last five games, picking up some of the playmaking slack left for arguably the game’s best point guard.
They will get little sympathy from the injury-ravaged Timberwolves. Minnesota got Pekovic and Shved back from five-game absences, giving them 12 players on the bench for the first time since Dec. 26. They’re still missing Kevin Love (broken hand), Chase Budinger (knee) and Brandon Roy (knee).
The Clippers looked a little groggy as they opened an eight-game, Oscars-related road trip. They picked up a couple of defensive 3-second violations and a bevy of technical fouls to fall behind by as many 11 points in the second quarter. Barnes got things started in the second quarter when he tried to shove his way through a screen set by Stiemsma, then threw a forearm to Stiemsma’s chin. Officials reviewed the play and gave Barnes a flagrant foul-2, which brings an automatic ejection. Barnes was furious at the decision, and things got even testier moments later.
Stiemsma flattened Hill when he went up for a rebound under the basket, eliciting strong reactions from Butler and Ronny Turiaf. The two tough guys forcefully confronted Stiemsma, drawing technical fouls of their own. J.J. Barea hit both free throws for a 37-28 lead.
The outburst did seem to ignite the Clippers, who went on a 37-15 surge over the next 11 minutes to take control. Griffin flexed his muscle down low, getting Derrick Williams to pick up five fouls in 13 minutes while he attacked the offensive glass.
NOTES: It was Barnes’ second ejection of the season and seventh of his career. He entered the game tied for the league lead in technical fouls with nine. … The 6-foot-1 Bledsoe blocked the 6-foot-11 Pekovic’s layup in transition in the third quarter. … Shved was named to the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge that will take place during All-Star weekend in Houston. The rookie entered the game averaging 10.7 points and 4.6 assists this season.