MINNEAPOLIS -- On the same night a Los Angeles Clippers duo put on a stunning offensive display, their team barely avoided a defeat of equal measure.
Paul George finished with 46 points and Kawhi Leonard scored 42 at Target Center, the 21st time in NBA history that teammates had each scored 40 or more in the same game, the first time Clippers teammates had ever accomplished the feat and the first time George and Leonard had fully unleashed their offensive arsenal since joining forces 11 games ago.
And the Clippers needed every one of their 88 combined points to escape with a 124-117 victory, their fourth consecutive.
"Every play was basically for those two guys and they came up big," coach Doc Rivers said. "They made the right plays for the most part, until down the stretch when we start turning the ball over. But that was fantastic."
With their 27-point second-half lead whittled to just four with 40 seconds to play, thanks in part to nine Clippers turnovers in the final quarter, Leonard drove into the key and was fouled. He made his 18th and 19th free throws of the night, the most any Clipper has ever made in a game without a miss. Twenty seconds later, with the Clippers' lead up to five after a missed free throw by Derrick Walton Jr., a once-quiet crowd was on its feet as Timberwolves guard Robert Covington collected the rebound and dribbled upcourt.
Then he fired a pass too hard and too wide of its intended receiver, out of bounds, and the Clippers finally secured the win that had appeared easily in hand at various points during the night. Such moments included when George and Leonard combined to score their team's first 23 points and led Minnesota by 12.
Or, the time late in the third quarter, when they'd outscored the entire Minnesota roster by themselves, 70-68.
"It's great," Leonard said. "Just have someone else out there to help score the ball, making the game easier for myself, you know we're still trying to build our chemistry out there. We didn't close that fourth quarter too great and the end of that third. We've still got improvements to make."
With few reserves available because of injuries to Patrick Beverley (concussion), Lou Williams (sore calf), Landry Shamet (ankle) and JaMychal Green (bruised tailbone), Rivers staggered his lineups to keep either Leonard or George on the court at all times to ensure some sort of scoring punch for a roster temporarily bereft of playmakers.
The lineups weren't without their droughts.