Venue: Target Center
The Minnesota Timberwolves have done a much better job of keeping scores close lately, but they're still struggling to close out games.
A visit from the slumping Los Angeles Clippers could help the Timberwolves finally finish strong.
Opening a home-heavy portion of schedule Wednesday night, Minnesota looks to bounce back from a pair of tight losses as it faces the Clippers, who are off to their worst start in 12 years.
After its previous five defeats came by an average of 26.0 points, Minnesota (3-9) has dropped its last three by 14 total points.
The Timberwolves led by eight and were on the verge of their second road win Monday, but were held to one field goal in the final two minutes and fell 113-110 to Charlotte.
Minnesota lost 111-105 at Atlanta the night before.
"(Winning late is) just something that we're going to have to figure out," forward Kevin Love, among the league leaders with 14.3 rebounds per game, said after scoring 20 points and coming within one board of an NBA-best ninth double-double.
Minnesota is shooting 38.1 percent in the final three minutes of the game, while its opponents are hitting 49.2 percent during that stretch.
"They have to go through the pain and suffering of making the mistakes and gaining the experience and being in this (late-game) situation multiple times," coach Kurt Rambis said.
The Timberwolves, who have won one of their league-high eight road games, will try to get back on track as they open a stretch of four of five at home. They expect point guard Luke Ridnour to return to the lineup after missing the past five games with a strained left hamstring.
Minnesota will face a Clippers team that's suffering through its worst start since tying a then-NBA record 0-17 skid to begin 1998-99.
Los Angeles (1-10), loser of nine straight on the road, dropped its sixth in a row overall Monday, 110-96 to New Jersey. The Nets had lost 23 consecutive road games versus Western Conference opponents.
"We're trying to find a leader," Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro said. "We have a lot of young guys trying to find their way. The veteran guys are out with injuries right now. Chris Kaman (ankle), Baron Davis (knee) and Randy Foye (hamstring) have been out so it's going to take a while for a leader to emerge."
Rookie Blake Griffin has done his part to help the Clippers fight through the injuries, averaging 16.1 points and a team-high 10.2 rebounds, but the 21-year-old forward realizes that his team lacks experience.
"It's just tough to win games against grown men when the oldest guy in your starting five is 22 years old, which is DeAndre Jordan," Griffin said.
Griffin will likely be matched up with Michael Beasley, who is reviving his career in Minnesota after two disappointing seasons in Miami.
Beasley is averaging 32.5 points during his best four-game scoring stretch in the NBA, although he's been careless with the ball, committing a team-high 2.9 turnovers per game. He had two in the closing moments of Monday's loss.
"I feel like it was my fault today," Beasley said after scoring 28 points. "I don't feel good at all knowing my two turnovers changed the game."
In the teams' last matchup at the Target Center, the Timberwolves won 111-97 on Jan. 29 to snap a three-game skid to the Clippers, who had a chance to sweep the season series for the first time since 1992-93.
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