Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, puts up a shot over Minnesota center… (Jesse Johnson / U.S. Presswire )
Reporting from Minneapolis — Two weeks, two countries, eight games and two victories were summed up succinctly by the starting point guard with a sore knee.
"It's been hell," Baron Davis said Wednesday night. "I'll tell you that. …I think the knee is the happiest part of my body right now."
And this wasn't after a loss. The Clippers defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves, 98-90, at the Target Center behind 29 points from Blake Griffin, 21 from Randy Foye and a surprise return by injured center Chris Kaman, who was able to play nine minutes in his first game since Dec. 5 and had four points and six rebounds.
Griffin got the better of power forward Kevin Love, a matchup of the youthful All-Star power forwards. Love, however, was slowed when he had to leave, briefly, because of an injured right shoulder in the second quarter, but still managed his 42nd consecutive double-double with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
The Clippers had their first victory in four games, and their fifth road win this season. They were 2-6 on this North American swing, and will be given a brief respite and four days off before the trip resumes next week at Oklahoma City.
"On this road trip, we learned a lot about who we are and who we can be and what we are capable of, the importance of road victories and the importance of playing well on the road," Davis said.
"We didn't pull out the games we should have. We played really strong and really hard, the first three or four games. … We just have to develop that us-against-the-world mentality when we are on the road. Even though our record wasn't that great on this road trip, we kind of grew up a lot."
The Clippers beat the New York Knicks in their other victory on the trip, lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in overtime and suffered a one-point defeat in the opener at Atlanta.
"Well, it definitely could have been better," Coach Vinny Del Negro said of the trip. "We're in all the games except for maybe Orlando and Miami, a little bit, in the fourth quarter. And Milwaukee jumped on us in the fourth quarter. Considering where we are at health-wise, length of the trip, we will take the one tonight."
There won't be any sort of break for Griffin, of course, who is facing a hectic All-Star weekend — the rookie versus sophomore game Friday, the slam dunk contest Saturday and the All-Star game Sunday.
Griffin fell two rebounds shy of what would have been his 47th double-double as he had 29 points, eight rebounds, five assists and another handful of dunks. The dunk he didn't finish will surely be on many highlight packages. With 1 minute 40 seconds remaining, Davis fed him an alley-oop and Griffin soared and hit his head on the corner of the backboard.
Not only did he come away with a sore face and neck, but he got an offensive foul and technical foul on the play.
When the media filed into the Clippers locker room, Griffin had his head in his hands and was disconsolate. He had learned after the game that a close friend from back home in Oklahoma had passed away earlier in the day.
His teammates quietly conducted their interviews in a hushed locker room and Del Negro spoke to Griffin at length, as did Davis.