Frustration spilled over in the final minutes for the Los Angeles Clippers Monday night at Staples Center. The shorthanded Minnesota Timberwolves, who fought without star guard Jimmy Butler, came in and outlasted the Clippers behind a season-high 40-point performance from Andrew Wiggins, which resulted in a 126-118 victory for the Wolves.
Minnesota has now won their last seven out of last nine games and ended their four-game road skid, while taking advantage of getting to the free throw line in Los Angeles, converting on 33 of 39 attempts.
The Clippers dropped back into ninth place in the Western Conference with the loss, and now trail a half-game behind Denver for the final playoff spot.
Jeff Teague added 30 points and six assists, as half of Teague’s points came from the charity stripe, where he converted on 16 of 17.
“He was being aggressive,” said Wolves forward Andrew Wiggins.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers was livid with the referees and more wanted to make a point with the discrepancies of Minnesota getting to the free throw line 17 more times than the Clippers.
“Up until the very end of the game, Teague had more free throws than our entire team,” Rivers said. “I thought we were driving and were just as physical as them. It’s rare when you’re the home team and the free throws are 39 to 22. And a lot of their fouls came down the stretch when the game was over. It wasn’t even as close as that.”
Rivers and assistant Mike Woodson were ejected with seven seconds left, two of four technical fouls the team received in the final 4:50 of the game.
“I literally got thrown out of the game for saying, ‘You guys gave us some tough calls tonight,'” Rivers said. “That was it. No swear words. Nothing. And the point I make all the time: If I earn a tech, I’m fine with it: Just like players can lose their composure, officials can lose their composure as well. Sam got a technical for saying, `Three seconds.’ Blake said, `Over my back’ and got a technical.”
Rivers added: “One ref told me I couldn’t talk. I thought I was the head coach. As long as I’m respectful, I can say whatever I want. … I guess you can give a guy a tech for anything.”
Blake Griffin had a triple-double in his efforts to save the Clippers from dropping a second straight game, adding 32 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high 12 assists.
Griffin also picked up a technical foul in the game, as his came at the 4:50 mark, after a Montrezl Harrell dunk that gave the Clippers a 108-106 lead.
“I can’t be the one to get a tech in the fourth quarter. I put us in a hole and sort of started the onslaught of techs in the last four minutes,” Griffin said. “We got good looks, a couple calls didn’t go our way. At the end of the day, it wasn’t the calls.
The Timberwolves took advantage of the frustrated Clippers unit and closed the game on a 20-10 run, sinking free-throw after free-throw in the closing minutes.
Minnesota center Karl-Anthony Towns finished well below his 20 point average with only 11 points, on 1 of 7 shooting, but converted 9 of 10 free throws and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Wiggins finished with a season-high 40 points, making 5 of 8 three-pointers and 16 of 28 field goals.
The bright spot for Los Angeles was their bench, as Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell combined for 43 points while the Timberwolves only tallied 13 points, as the duo scored 23 and 20 points, respectively.
Minnesota received balanced contributions from its starters, as Nemanja Bjelica added 18 points and nine rebounds and Taj Gibson finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
The Clippers ultimately had a more efficient game than Minnesota shooting 56 percent from the field, compared to the Timberwolves 47 percent, but outrebounded Los Angeles 52-46, as the Clippers were without DeAndre Jordan for a fifth straight game with a sprained left ankle.
“Where we lost the game was because of the offensive rebounding. They destroyed us [18-8], and we lost because they got to the free-throw line. It’s rare where you lose a game and you shoot 56%. And we lost that game,” said Rivers.
Los Angeles continues its homestand hosting the Boston Celtics Wednesday night, only before hitting the road west to take on the Memphis Grizzlies Friday evening and the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday afternoon.