Wolves rally to beat Milwaukee

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 12, 2014 - 7:27 AM

The second-worst-shooting team in basketball turned into sharpshooters before Minnesota played some defense.

We don’t know exactly what Wolves coach Rick Adelman told his team at halftime of Tuesday’s game with Milwaukee at Target Center. But, asked afterward, Kevin Love offered up a CliffsNotes version of what Adelman said.

“Play better.’’

And so they did. The Wolves responded to a soft first half in which they let the Bucks do what they wanted with a hard-nosed second half in a 112-101 victory over a Milwaukee team that, at 13-51, has the worst record in the league.

Martin scored 12 of his 26 points and Love had eight of his 27 in the third quarter, during which the Wolves erased a 10-point deficit to take a two-point lead into the fourth. Then the Wolves did what they all knew they should have done from the beginning — put the Bucks in the rear-view mirror in a fourth quarter in which they led by as many as 18 points.

“We played harder [in the second half],” said Love, who scored 27 points with 10 rebounds after saying he didn’t feel well before the game. “Our energy was up, our communication was way up. We knew they have had their struggles, and we were the better team.’’

And the Wolves (32-21) proved it when they rallied from 10 or more points down to win for just the second time this season. Backup guard J.J. Barea scored 19 and Ricky Rubio had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists.

But it took a while.

The Bucks, the second-worst-shooting team in the league, hit their first 12 shots and 15 of their first 21 while taking a 33-28 lead after a quarter. In particular, the backcourt tandem of Brandon Knight (21 points) and Nate Wolters (14) was effective. That the Wolves were still within six at halftime was a testament to Barea, who scored 17 of his 19 points in the half.

“I told them we were lucky to be down six,” Adelman said. “We were just too soft. They made a lot of shots, but we were letting them go wherever they wanted to go.’’

That changed in the second half, after the Bucks scored the first four points of the third quarter to go back up 10.

The Bucks still shot the ball well in the third, but the Wolves were heating up. They turned six Bucks turnovers into 13 points — they finished with 30 points off turnovers — and got big contributions from Love and Martin to seize control of the game. Martin had five points and Love had two threes and eight points in a 19-9 run that tied the score at 74.

Up two to enter the fourth, the Wolves pushed to a 12-point lead in the opening minutes of the quarter and cruised to the finish.

“We came out flat, and they got going,” said Barea, who has been fighting a recent slump. “But I was aggressive. I was due for [something good]. I’m happy I helped my team tonight.’’

The victory gave the Wolves a 2-2 record in the completed four-game homestand. Not ideal. The Wolves remained five games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

“It’s been a weird year to say the least,” Love said. “We’re capable of really good things. The stats show we should be a lot of games better than we are. But the fact is we’re still on the outside looking in. There’s not much room for mistakes right now.”

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