Timberwolves beat Clippers 94-86

LOS ANGELES Not that they showed much gratitude Monday.

Al Jefferson scored 20 points and tied a season high with 17 rebounds, and Craig Smith also had 20 points for the Timberwolves in their 94-86 victory over the /*Clippers*/.

Minnesota has won seven of its past eight after losing 15 of 17.

"The biggest thing I've seen is the sense of 'We can get this done as a team,' and them pulling together," coach /*Kevin McHale*/ said. "That's fun to see, because that's what teams are all about."

The Timberwolves have won a season-high four straight on the road for the first time since December 2005, when they won five in a row away from Target Center.

"We're headed in the right direction, and that's the whole key," swingman Mike Miller said. "We're finding ways to get up and down the court a little bit more and we're sharing the ball a lot better. When you're sharing the ball and you've got guys who can put the ball in the hole, it makes it a lot more difficult for the other team. We didn't play as well as we wanted to today, but it was good enough to win the game."

Minnesota is 9-11 under McHale, who stepped down as vice president of basketball operations and took over as coach for Randy Wittman on Dec. 8 - two days after the Clippers pounded them 107-84 at Minnesota.

"That's a totally different team than it was then," Jefferson said. "They missed a lot of their great players today, but we still had to take care of business. It was one of those games where whoever played defense better was going to win."

The Timberwolves scored 58 points in the paint against a beat-up Clippers roster missing /*Zach Randolph*/, /*Baron Davis*/, /*Chris Kaman*/, /*Mike Taylor*/ and /*Jason Hart*/ - and now /*Marcus Camby*/. The league's second-leading rebounder sat out for the first time this season because of a sprained left ankle, forcing coach /*Mike Dunleavy*/ to use his 15th different starting lineup.

"It's tough because we do not have all of our players on the court," Dunleavy said. "When you do, you know exactly who you are going to. Some of the guys we have out there have not been in that position, but I was pleased with our effort. They played hard, kept themselves in the game and gave us a chance to win."

Rookie Eric Gordon led Los Angeles with 25 points and reserve Steve Novak had a career-high 18. The loss was the 13th in 14 games for the Clippers, coming off a 101-92 win against Milwaukee on Saturday that ended a 12-game skid.

Clippers rookie DeAndre Jordan made his first NBA start after serving as a reserve in his first 18 games. The 6-foot-11 center from Texas A&M had eight points and 10 rebounds in 34 minutes and blocked six shots.

Al Thornton, who had only eight points in 34 minutes during the loss at Minnesota, sat out the final 8:44 of the second quarter after picking up his third foul and finished with 12 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. The second-year forward didn't make it to the free throw line in either game against the Timberwolves.

Minnesota is 7-1 since Miller became a reserve. He started 22 of the first 23 games before missing five straight with a sprained right ankle, which is still bothering him.

"It's an adjustment, but you've just got to continue to work hard and try to help the team win," Miller. "Anytime you win, it makes it easier."

For the seventh time this season, Los Angeles never had a lead. Minnesota opened the game with a 24-8 run fueled by 14 points from Smith. Miller, Sebastian Telfair and Rodney Carney all missed 3-pointers in the final 74 seconds of the first quarter, enabling the Clippers to reduce the margin to 10.

"I looked at our coaches and told them I wish that big run that we had happened in the fourth quarter and not the first quarter - because we immediately came down and jacked up probably five or six jump shots with about 18 seconds on the shot clock," McHale said. "We weren't doing a good enough job of running to get layups and fouls."

Notes: Camby's injury leaves Thornton as the only Clippers player to start all 40 games. ... In the 10 seasons that Staples Center has been in operation, the Clippers have always played the matinee game in NBA doubleheaders while the Lakers got the primetime contest - like they did on Monday against Cleveland. But that won't be the case on March 15, when the nationally televised Lakers-Dallas game precedes the Clippers-New Jersey tilt. ... Camby, a 13-year NBA veteran, played in a career-high 79 games last season with Denver. ... McHale is 28-23 in his two stints as Minnesota's coach, including a 19-12 mark at the end of the 2004-05 season after replacing Flip Saunders. ... The Clippers shot 41.5 percent, after finishing at 54.4 percent on Saturday - the only time this season that they weren't under 50 percent from the field.



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