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CLIPPERS 91, MINNESOTA 87

Clippers continue upswing, but barely

They manage to beat the lowly Timberwolves behind a game-high 31 points from Al Thornton.

November 24, 2009|By Lisa Dillman
  • Minnesota's Oleksiy Pecherov battles the Clippers' Craig Smith and Chris Kaman for a rebound in the first half Monday night.
Minnesota's Oleksiy Pecherov battles the Clippers' Craig… (Jeff Lewis / Associated…)

Welcome to "As the Clippers Turn."

Has there been a more, well, interesting 6-9 team?

Undoubtedly, yes.

But the Clippers are inching toward respectability, and .500, in a most novel way. In the span of four days, they beat a Western Conference powerhouse (Denver) and survived a genuine fright against weak-link Minnesota, which has lost 13 consecutive games.

The latter, a 91-87 victory against the Timberwolves on Monday night at Staples Center, came with a certain point guard sitting on the bench for most of the third quarter and a decent portion of the fourth.

That would be a point guard named Baron Davis. The very same Baron Davis who is in the second year of a five-year, $65-million deal. Davis was one for 10 from the field and didn't score until the final seconds.

Davis landed on the bench less than four minutes into the third quarter and stayed there while backup Sebastian Telfair ran the offense and scored a season-high 17 points. Small forward Al Thornton, who has flourished in the last six games, had a game-high 31 points, his season best.

Thornton and Marcus Camby, who had 18 rebounds, combined for 43 points.

"He [Camby] played well," said Thornton, who had 10 rebounds. "He's a beast on the boards. We need him to do that every night."

But back to Telfair.

Telfair, who joined the Clippers in a trade with Minnesota last summer (along with Craig Smith), had no turnovers, shooting six for 12 from the field, including two three-point baskets.

Mindful that his former team matched its worst start (1-13), Telfair said, "It means a lot. I was traded for them to go get some new guards. I wanted to show them I could play. I don't want to say anybody made a mistake . . . those guys are great players. I'm confident enough to know I'm just as good as those guys."

The win was made that much more difficult -- the Timberwolves pulled to within two points with a minute left -- because Davis didn't score until his strong drive to the hoop with 8.5 seconds remaining to make it 91-87.

Better late than never, right?

Davis missed his first nine shots and was 0 for 7 in the first half. He may have gotten fitter and faster, but his shooting touch still seems as though it was left behind in Northern California.

He had five assists in the first half but nearly negated that with four turnovers.

Help in the backcourt should come in the form of shooting guard Eric Gordon, who could return Wednesday in his hometown of Indianapolis against the Pacers after sitting out seven consecutive games because of a strained groin.

He was active and in uniform, having practiced Sunday, but still has some discomfort in the area and did not play.

"He was the MVP of practice yesterday," Coach Mike Dunleavy said of Gordon. "He played unbelievable. He played for like an hour and a half. . . . While practice was going on, I'm thinking, 'I'm playing him 40 tomorrow.' "

Meanwhile, returning to a recurring Clippers theme:

An inspired individual performance . . . and an injury.

Second-year center DeAndre Jordan threw down four dunks against Denver on Friday night and then sprained an ankle in practice Sunday.

Smith, for once, didn't cause the injury to a teammate.

"Hell no," he said, smiling. "I wasn't even in the play."

Etc.

Clippers announcers Ralph Lawler and Mike Smith returned to work and said they "deeply regret" comments they made Wednesday that led to their one-game suspension.

Fox suspended them from Friday's Prime Ticket broadcast of the Clippers' game against the Nuggets after a Clippers season-ticket holder objected to the announcers' on-air exchange during the game against Memphis about Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi.

"I want to get something out of the way right here off the top of the show," Lawler said on the air just before the Timberwolves game.

"Speaking for Mike, both of us deeply regret anything that we might have said in that ballgame against Memphis last Wednesday night that may have offended any good Clipper fan or anybody else.

"We're glad to put it behind us, we're glad to be back."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

twitter.com/reallisa

Times staff writer Jim Peltz contributed to this report.

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