for this game

Jefferson's double-double leads Timberwolves past Clippers

Mar 18, 2008 - 4:19 AM By Tom Coyer PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (Ticker) -- With little left to play for outside of draft positioning, the Minnesota Timberwolves showed they were the best amongst two of the worst teams in the NBA.

Al Jefferson had 22 points and 14 rebounds for the Timberwolves en route to a 99-90 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers in a matchup of two last-place teams in their respective divisions on Monday.

After Monday's play, Minnesota (16-60) trails Northwest Division-leading Utah (45-24) by 27 1/2 games while the Clippers 24 games behind the idle Los Angeles Lakers (45-21), the Pacific Division frontrunner.

Minnesota went on a 13-4 run early in the fourth quarter to transform a 68-66 advantage after three quarters into an 81-70 lead.

Craig Smith scored three points to open the period, Rashad McCants hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper before Kirk Snyder nailed a long jumper.

Tim Thomas temporarily halted the run with a dunk two possessions later to trim the lead by 78-70 but was angered by the absence of a foul call on his score, leading to a technical foul.

After Rashad McCants hit the technical free throw, Snyder drained another long jumper to push the lead out to 11 points, capping a stretch in which the two guards combined for 10 straight points.

"They started to make some shots at the end," Clippers forward Corey Maggette said. "Al Jefferson started to make some plays at the end and Craig and Rashad McCants made some big plays for them.

"They just kept chipping away and, if we made a basket, they made a (3-pointer). They just kind of put us in those situations."

The Clippers, despite 34 points from Maggette, could get no closer than seven the rest of the way.

Ryan Gomes scored 19 points and McCants added 16 for Minnesota, which secured its fourth win in its last six games.

"We have to continue to try and build this, from a standpoint of learning to win," Timberwolves coach Randy Wittman said of his team's improved play. "This is another step in that direction."

Jefferson, who secured his 48th double-double of the season, also blocked four shots and helped the Timberwolves dominate the Clippers in the paint, 48-30.

"Defense was the key," Jefferson said. "It starts from defense, they hit some big time shots - contested shots. They were hitting them in the first quarter. But you know (if) you keep playing great defense on guys, they aren't going to continue to make those tough shots."

Clippers coach Mike Dunleavy, who has already sent out a league-high 29 different starting lineups this season, thought the continued absence of center Chris Kaman - who has missed the last five games with a back injury - played a role in Jefferson's domination.

"The other thing, too, is Jefferson not having to guard anybody, really, in the low post, to potentially get him in foul trouble or (have) a shot-blocker (in there)," Dunleavy said.