Clippers clinch playoff spot with win over Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Doc Rivers read the preseason predictions that said his team might win 35 games, at best. Neither the Clippers coach nor his players took much stock in all that.
Now, they’re playoff-bound.
Danilo Gallinari scored 25 points and Los Angeles clinched a postseason spot Tuesday night with a 122-111 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Rivers’ club is back in the postseason after falling short a year ago. The Clippers finished 42-40 last season, missing the playoffs after making it six straight years — four under Rivers.
“I’m just really happy for our guys,” Rivers said. “Before the year, we went through all the articles about us and how bad we were going to be. . I just told them, they don’t know us.”
The Clippers (45-30) became the fifth Western Conference team to secure a postseason berth. With seven regular-season games to play, Los Angeles still has a shot at earning home-court advantage in the first round.
Lou Williams added 20 points off the bench for the Clippers, who outscored Minnesota’s reserves 53-25. Williams had 45 points the last time Los Angeles played at Target Center.
The Clippers have won six in a row, the longest active streak in the NBA, and are 11-1 in March.
“It’s so hard to make the playoffs in the West,” said guard Patrick Beverley, who said he was fine after exiting the game with a hip pointer. “To be in the category with some of the teams that we’re in the category with, it’s truly a blessing.”
Los Angeles led by 25 before Minnesota trimmed the deficit to 104-98 in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Karl-Anthony Towns. It was the closest the Wolves had been since the first quarter.
“Something that I think has failed us in a lot of our losses is just our execution,” Towns said. “It hasn’t been the effort, and it hasn’t been the determination. It has just been the execution.”
Towns led Minnesota with 24 points and 13 rebounds. Andrew Wiggins scored 22 and Dario Saric added 18.
Montrezl Harrell helped the Clippers pull away after the Timberwolves got within single digits late in the game. Ten of his 18 points came after Minnesota made it a six-point game in the fourth quarter.
“It’s going to be a different guy every night,” Williams said. “Trez was having a slow game, and then the last 5 minutes he made all the big plays that we needed to keep some distance there. I think that’s just a testament to how we’re built.”
Los Angeles, which entered as the second-most accurate 3-point shooting team in the NBA, thrived from deep. The Clippers shot 16 for 32 from downtown. Gallinari hit a team-high six 3s, which matched his season high.
“They might be playing the best basketball out of anybody in the league right now,” Timberwolves interim coach Ryan Saunders said.
Minnesota was once again short-handed, as several key players — including Derrick Rose, Robert Covington and Jeff Teague — have been shut down for the remainder of the season.
Clippers: G Landry Shamet did not play due to an ankle injury. Shamet is averaging 11.2 points per game since he was traded to the Clippers in early February. Rivers said Shamet would’ve played if it were a playoff game. ... Garrett Temple scored 15 points, his highest total since he was acquired by the Clippers in early February.
Timberwolves: F Taj Gibson missed his third straight game with a calf injury. ... Towns didn’t convert his first field goal until there was 4:53 remaining in the third quarter. Before that, he was 0 for 7 from the floor. ... Towns’ double-double was his 50th of the season. ... Minnesota was 20 of 33 from the free throw line.
Clippers: At the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night.
Timberwolves: Host the Golden State Warriors on Friday night.