Timberwolves-Clippers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 10, 2013
The Los Angeles Clippers already clinched the first Pacific Division title in franchise history, but they'd like to build even more momentum heading into the playoffs. As they try to set a club record for single-season home victories, the Clippers can complete their first season sweep of Minnesota in 20 years with a fifth consecutive win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night. Los Angeles (51-26) is headed to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1992 and 1993, but this postseason will be its first as Pacific champ after completing a season sweep of the rival Lakers with a 109-95 win Sunday. "It just feels like something we were supposed to do,'' said Chris Paul, who had 24 points and 12 assists. "It means we're headed in the right direction. We're not satisfied. We understand this is something small compared to the big picture.'' As a division winner, the Clippers are guaranteed a top-four seed in the Western Conference playoffs but they're 1 1/2 games back of fifth-place Memphis in the race for home-court advantage in the first round. Los Angeles has five games remaining, including a visit to Memphis on Saturday - its only contest against a team with a winning record. "Hopefully, we're playing well at the right time going to the playoffs,'' said guard Jamal Crawford, who had 20 points against the Lakers. The Clippers shot 53.1 percent while beating Phoenix and the Lakers by a combined 39 points after losing three straight to San Antonio, Houston and Indiana. Blake Griffin had 24 points and 12 rebounds after scoring nine against the Suns last Wednesday. Griffin has totaled 46 points in the last two games versus Minnesota (29-48). Paul missed both of those meetings with a bruised kneecap, but had 23 and 11 assists in a 101-95 home win over the Timberwolves on Nov. 28. Los Angeles hopes to regain the services of veteran guard Chauncey Billups, who returned to practice Tuesday after he missed five straight games with a groin injury. "We definitely want him back as soon as possible, but at the end of the day we want him healthy," Paul told the Clippers' official website. "We plan on playing for a while so we want him to be as fresh and healthy as possible." The Clippers, who have two more chances to earn a franchise-record 31st home win, have not swept a season series from Minnesota since 1992-93. The Timberwolves averaged 109.7 points and shot 52.9 percent during a season-high three-game road winning streak that ended with Tuesday's 105-89 loss at Golden State. Chase Budinger scored a team-high 17 points off the bench for Minnesota, which shot 36.7 percent while its starters were outscored 86-38 by the Warriors' first five. "We didn't play good at all. That's it,'' said point guard Ricky Rubio, who made five free throws and went 0 for 10 from the floor. It was the fifth game this season Rubio failed to make at least one field-goal attempt. He's been held to 13 points on 6-of-18 shooting in the last two meetings with the Clippers.
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