AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – For nearly 10 minutes the Timberwolves poured it on in a slow, consistent, startling burn.
From the starters to the bench, through timeouts and personnel changes, the Wolves played pesky defense, shared the ball and shot it.
Boy, did they shoot it.
On Tuesday at the Palace of Auburn Hills, against a Detroit team that is darned near 0-for-March, the Timberwolves did everything right in a 105-82 victory. Especially in the third quarter. Or, more specifically, over the final 9:48 of said quarter.
“We said win the third quarter,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “And we dominated.”
It took less than 10 minutes for the Wolves, running and hitting from everywhere, to rain down three-pointers in a 32-9 run that turned a five-point game into a double-digit rout. And it didn’t stop there.
By the time this was over, the Wolves (25-44) — the worst three-point shooting team in the league — had hit a season-high 14 treys, with seven players getting at least one.
J.J. Barea came off the bench to hit five of seven three-pointers on the way to 21 points. Center Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and 11 rebounds. Luke Ridnour had 15 points on 6-for-7 shooting and Ricky Rubio had 14 points, nine assists, four rebounds and two steals.
The Wolves won back-to-back road games by 20 or more points for the first time in franchise history.
“We were due for something like this,” Barea said. “Hopefully, we can carry it over.”
The deciding run started right after Kyle Singler’s three-pointer pulled the Pistons (24-48) within 50-45 with 9:28 left in the third quarter. From that point to the end of the quarter, the Wolves shot 11-for-16 while holding the Pistons to 3-for-15 shooting over the same stretch.
“It was our defense that did it,” Rubio said. “We picked up our energy on defense, and then we could get easy baskets on the fast break. And we made our shots.’’
Ridnour hit a three-pointer, then Rubio did the same. Rubio fed Andrei Kirilenko for a dunk, then hit yet another three-pointer. The Wolves hit on seven of nine three-pointers in the quarter. Over the final 9:28 of the third, Rubio scored eight points, Kirilenko and Ridnour six each, and Chase Budinger five. In the fourth quarter, the starters resting, Barea scored 14 to finish off Detroit.
“We shot the heck out of it,” said Adelman, who won his 996th career game. “We do that, we have a chance to win a lot of games. But we haven’t done that very often. Fourteen threes? That’s a month’s worth.”
You could understand Detroit coach Lawrence Frank’s frustration after the game. He was bemoaning his team’s defense during his team’s disastrous third quarter. For proof, he offered this: “So Rubio, who is a 19-percent three-point shooter, who has made 11 all season, makes two.’’
Frank must not have been looking at Rubio’s recent work.
In his first 35 games this season, Rubio, coming back from knee surgery, shot 93-for-272 overall (34.2 percent) and just 7-for-40 (17.5 percent) on three-pointers. But in his past nine, Rubio is 44-for-98 (44.9) overall and 6-for-18 on threes (33.3).
“I’m just getting in the rhythm of the game,” said Rubio, who hit six of nine shots against the Pistons, including both three-pointers.
“I feel more comfortable out there, and so I’m looking for my shot more when I’m open.”
Said Adelman: “I think it’s conditioning, too. I think his legs are there, he feels stronger and he feels better about it. And, if we move the ball as a team, he’s a guy who is going to get open shots. He has to be ready to shoot ’em”
• Adelman said injured players Brandon Roy and Kevin Love would travel with the team even if they won’t play.
“I just think the guys who are playing are busting their tails night in and night out, and we’re all in this together,” Adelman said. “I decided these guys needed to be with us.”