MINNEAPOLIS -- Al Jefferson responded well to his latest challenge.
Minnesota won for the fourth time in six games and moved past Seattle into fourth place in the Northwest Division. Jefferson has 48 double-doubles, trailing only Orlando's Dwight Howard, who has 60, for the league lead.
Corey Maggette scored 34 points for Los Angeles, which concluded a five-game road trip by losing its fourth straight. Tim Thomas added 22 points.
Three nights earlier in Seattle, Jefferson was pulled out of a game by coach Randy Wittman for poor defense.
"He took me out because of my weakside help, and I don't like to sit on the bench because of my mistakes," Jefferson said. "It was something I had to just get better at. By me doing it tonight it showed him that I can do it. He'll been looking for that every game and I need to take the challenge."
Wittman agrees, calling the game the best he's seen Jefferson play defensively all season.
"He's proven he can score and play at the offensive end. To be a complete player he's got to do what he did tonight, and the things that he's capable of. I'm not going to ask him to do anything more than he's capable because of his feet, his quickness and his smarts he can convert that into solid play at the other end," he said. "It's not so much playing one-on-one with the man you're guarding, I'm talking help-side defense, recognizing a breakdown and coming over and making that guy make the next pass, challenging at the rim."
That was especially important against Maggette and Thomas, both of whom were making shots from inside the paint and outside the arc.
"We knew who their big two were, so we just tried to give whoever was guarding them as much help as possible and make the other guys take shots," said Minnesota guard Randy Foye, who had seven defensive rebounds.
Maggette, who also scored 34 points Saturday in Washington, has scored at least 30 points seven times this year. This was the second time in six weeks, and fifth time in his career, that Maggette had back-to-back games with 30-plus.
But he and Thomas got little help, especially with center Chris Kaman missing his fifth straight game with a lower back injury. Cuttino Mobley scored 10 points, shooting 3-for-15, and the Clippers' reserves were 5-for-17 from the field, getting outscored 31-10.
Rookie Al Thornton, who scored 18 points when the teams met nine days earlier, had four points. He left Saturday's game in with a right thigh contusion. Los Angeles has lost an NBA-high 237 man-games to injury this season.
"The other thing too is Jefferson not having to guard anyone in the low post and potentially getting in foul trouble," Los Angeles coach Mike Dunleavy said. "But, hey it's a part of it. Thornton tried to play for us tonight, but he couldn't really elevate, couldn't do much. We need him to just give it a try for us to even give us a chance."
After an evenly played first half, a tip by Jefferson gave Minnesota a nine-point lead with 2:50 to play in the third, before six points by Maggette helped Los Angeles cut the deficit at quarter's end.
But Minnesota took over with a 13-4 run early in the fourth quarter for an 81-70 lead. Craig Smith had three quick points to open the period, Rashad McCants hit a 3-pointer and a long jumper before Kirk Snyder made two long-range shots.
McCants scored 16 points, Snyder 14 and Smith 11 for the Timberwolves. Marko Jaric had 10 assists.
A 3-pointer by Maggette pulled Los Angeles to 95-88 with 2:33 to play, but the Clippers could get no closer.
"They started to make some shots down at the end. Al Jefferson started to make some plays at the end, and create, and Rashad McCants made some big plays for their team," Maggette said. "They just kept chipping away. We made a basket, they hit a 3. We missed, they hit a 3. It just put us in those situations."
Sebastian Telfair missed his fifth straight game for Minnesota with a sprained left ankle. Wittman hopes to have the guard back on the court next week. "We'll have some time to get him on the floor in practice and get him tested really good before we have to put him back out there." ... Thomas was given a technical early in the fourth quarter. ... Minnesota improved to 4-44 when scoring less than 100 points.
|L.A. Clippers (21-45)||23||21||22||24||90|
|Minnesota (16-50) «||23||24||21||31||99|
|LAC:C. Maggette 34 Pts
LAC:J. Powell 12 Reb
LAC:B. Knight 7 Ast
|MIN:A. Jefferson 22 Pts
MIN:A. Jefferson 14 Reb
MIN:M. Jaric 10 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|T. Thomas, PF||39||8-15||4-6||6||3||3||22|
|C. Mobley, SG||39||3-15||4-6||6||0||3||10|
|C. Maggette, SF||36||9-18||13-15||2||3||4||34|
|B. Knight, PG||28||1-3||2-3||3||7||2||4|
|Q. Ross, SF||12||1-3||0-0||2||0||1||2|
|J. Powell, SF||35||5-12||0-0||12||1||5||10|
|A. Thornton, SF||21||2-7||0-0||4||0||1||4|
|D. Dickau, PG||10||1-2||0-0||0||1||0||2|
|S. Parker, PG||10||0-4||0-0||0||1||0||0|
|N. Fazekas, PF||9||1-1||0-0||4||1||1||2|
|A. Williams, C||Did Not Play|
|E. Brand, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Livingston, PG||Did Not Play|
|C. Kaman, C||Did Not Play|
|P. Davis, C||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|M. Jaric, SF||38||2-4||1-2||7||10||2||6|
|R. Gomes, PF||37||6-9||6-6||5||2||2||19|
|A. Jefferson, PF||36||10-15||2-4||14||1||2||22|
|R. Foye, PG||28||3-9||0-0||7||2||4||7|
|K. Snyder, SG||26||5-10||4-6||5||2||5||14|
|R. McCants, SG||28||6-10||2-3||0||6||2||16|
|C. Brewer, SF||24||1-7||0-0||1||1||4||2|
|C. Smith, PF||16||4-10||3-4||4||0||2||11|
|C. Richard, PF||7||1-2||0-0||2||0||0||2|
|A. Walker, SF||Did Not Play|
|G. Buckner, SG||Did Not Play|
|M. Doleac, C||Did Not Play|
|M. Madsen, PF||Did Not Play|
|S. Telfair, PG||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|