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Clippers’ skid at 5 games after loss to Timberwolves

Clippers guard Reggie Jackson drives around Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels (3) with the help of a pick from teammate Luke Kennard during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert, left, blocks a dunk attempt by Clippers guard Terance Mann during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers forward Marcus Morris Sr. shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers forward Norman Powell, center, steals the ball from Minnesota Timberwolves guard Jaylen Nowell, left, during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers guard John Wall shoots over Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell (0) as the Clippers’ Moses Brown and the Timberwolves’ Taurean Prince (12) watch during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers guard Luke Kennard, right, blocks a shot by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, left, blocks a shot by Clippers center Ivica Zubac during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers guard Luke Kennard, left, has the ball knocked loose by Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell during the first half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves center Rudy Gobert shoots between the Clippers’ Moses Brown, right, and forward Norman Powell, left, during the second half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell passes the ball while under pressure from the Clippers’ Moses Brown during the second half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Clippers coach Tyronn Lue directs his players from the sidelines during the second half of their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Taurean Prince (12) is helped up after being fouled by Clippers forward Norman Powell, right, during the second half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kyle Anderson, center, is fouled as Clippers guard John Wall, right, and forward Norman Powell defend during the second half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves coach Chris Finch directs his players from the sidelines during the second half of their game against the Clippers on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Austin Rivers drives as Clippers guard Luke Kennard defends during the second half on Friday night in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Andy Clayton-King)

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By BRIAN HALL The Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — The Clippers are playing some of the best defense in the league this season – when they have most of their key players available. Take three key cogs out of the equation, though, and opponents will take advantage.

Rudy Gobert had 25 points and 21 rebounds, D’Angelo Russell also scored 25 and the Minnesota Timberwolves cruised to a 128-115 victory over the short-handed Clippers on Friday night, extending the Clippers’ losing streak to five games.

The Clippers were playing without All-Stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard as well as forward Nicolas Batum on the second night of a back-to-back. The Clippers arrived in Minnesota early Friday morning after a 122-91 loss in Denver and decided to sit George and Leonard as a precaution after the quick turnaround.

Reserve forward Norman Powell had a team-high 21 points to pace the Clippers. John Wall, held out of Thursday’s game for left knee injury management, had 14 points and eight assists off the bench.

Without George and Leonard on the wings, the Clippers’ usually stout defense struggled against the Timberwolves.

Minnesota shot 56.8% from the field and scored 62 points in the paint. The Timberwolves led by as many as 25 despite 20 turnovers.

The Clippers were allowing 109.8 points per game coming in, the fourth-lowest total in the league. Meanwhile, opponents were hitting just 45.8% of their shots.

Russell, who was on the bench as Minnesota closed out Portland on Wednesday, scored 10 points in the first quarter. With Gobert also contributing, the Timberwolves got 22 of their first 37 points in the paint.

Jaden McDaniels added 18 points for Minnesota, which has won three in a row. While the Timberwolves put together one of their most complete performances of the season, leading scorer Anthony Edwards left the game in the third quarter with left hip soreness and didn’t return.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM

Minnesota closed the first half on a 19-7 run to lead 68-54 and then stretched the lead to 19 early in the third quarter. The Timberwolves, who had been outscored by a league-high 125 points in the third period this season entering the day, saw their lead shrink as the Clippers went on a 10-0 run.

But Minnesota followed with its own 8-0 run to close the third and outscored the Clippers by eight in the quarter.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Batum was held out for the third time in four games as he deals with an ankle sprain. … George is dealing with right hamstring soreness and Leonard was listed out due to right knee injury management. … Moses Brown had 14 points and 11 rebounds. … The Clippers never led.

Timberwolves: Naz Reid returned after missing two games with back spasms, but left in the third with the same injury. … Minnesota shot 65% from the field in the first half. … The 20 turnovers led to 18 points for the Clippers.

UP NEXT

The Clippers host Atlanta on Sunday at 6 p.m.

More to come on this story.

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