Healthy Clippers send T-Wolves to 11th consecutive loss
Back to “being us every night,” as Clippers forward Moe Harkless said after practice Friday, when the Clippers prepared for the slumping Minnesota Timberwolves, who showed up at Staples Center toting a 10-game losing streak.“It’s a difference when we’re the aggressors and when we’re kind of playing lackadaisical, a little,” said Harkless, who changed his jersey number last week to 11 from 8, out of respect for Bryant. “When we’re the aggressors, it’s a beautiful thing to watch for us.”A 40-point first quarter was a good look, but the prettiest sight of all for Rivers was the healthy roster at his disposal.“It was nice,” said the Clippers coach, who had all of his players at his disposal in Saturday’s 118-106 victory for the first time since Christmas and for just the second time all season – although Paul George’s minutes were limited in his second game back from a hamstring strain that cost him nine games.Even with limited doses of George, the Clippers (34-15) improved to 15-4 when George and Kawhi Leonard both play. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error LOS ANGELES — The Clippers recently diagnosed themselves with a case of the slow starts, a malady they sought to remedy Saturday afternoon at Staples Center, where the previous night the Lakers held an emotional tribute to Kobe Bryant before their game against the Portland Trail Blazers.On Saturday afternoon, Bryant’s retired jersey Nos. 8 and 24 remained visible in the rafters and 8 and 24 jerseys spotted the arena, often paired by fans with a Clippers’ hat or jacket, as the Clippers avoided losing a second consecutive game after stumbling Thursday against Sacramento.“I thought they had a better focus,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “And honestly, just being honest, going through this last week, I didn’t know if it was focus. It was a tough one as a coach to hold anyone accountable.“But now you can feel it. The game last night was important for the league, I think, and now you can feel everybody, we can get back to basketball.” And they improved to 29-8 when at least Leonard plays – and 7-2 in the past nine games, when Leonard has been a tear, scoring 30 or more points in each.Hours before returning to San Diego State for a day in his honor and a jersey retirement ceremony, Leonard extended that streak Saturday with 31 points in 24 minutes. He now has the second-longest 30-point scoring streak in franchise history.“He’s playing as well as anyone in the league right now and he’s doing it all around,” said Rivers of Leonard, who also had six rebounds and four assists. “It’s not just scoring, he’s doing it with his defense, with his passing. The best part of it, it’s coming in the flow. It’s not a forced 30. It’s just ball movement, he’s going downhill, he’s getting his shots and it doesn’t stand out some nights. You’re looking at a box score like, ‘Wow, he had 30?’ That’s a great sign.”The Clippers – who shot 45.9% (45 for 98) and limited Minnesota to a 17.9 (7 for 39) 3-point percentage – fended off Karl-Anthony Town and his T-Wolves with substantial first- and third-quarter outputs, before resting Leonard for all of the final period.George scored seven of his 21 points – and of the Clippers’ 20 – in the fourth quarter. He logged 25 minutes.Four other Clippers finished in double figures, including Lou Williams (17), Montrezl Harrell (16), Patrick Beverley (12) and Landry Shamet (10). Shamet has scored in double figures for the nine consecutive game.Towns finished with a game-high 32 points for the Timberwolves (15-33) on 11-for-22 shooting.