Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Rubio starts, Love finishes, Wolves win 87-80 at New Orleans

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves players, Wolves postgame, Wolves news Updated: January 14, 2012 - 2:26 AM

Here's the game story from Friday's victory at New Orleans in which Ricky Rubio got his first NBA start and Kevin Love delivered a second-half shooting exhibition after he shot litlte better than 20 percent in games Monday at Toronto, Tuesday against Chicago and in the first half Friday.

After going 3-for-16 against the Raptors, 5-for-18 against the Bulls and 1-for-6 in Friday's first half, Love -- at least in Rick Adelman's estimation -- quit thinking and just started shooting after a first half in which the Hornets sent at least four different defenders after him.

He went 7-for-11 from the field and 13-for-14 from the foul line in the second half alone, when he scored 28 of his 34 points and the centerpiece in a 20-2 run that ended the first half and began the second.

You'll find the gamer here.

The critical juncture Friday came with two minutes remaining, after the Wolves had watched a 12-point lead to start the fourth quarter completely disappear.

It finally vanished after Anthony Tolliver went in for a layup at one end that appeared to hit the backboard before a Hornets' player swatted it away.

While Tolliver and the Wolves looked in vain for a goaltending call that never came, the Hornets sprinted down the court and Marco Belinelli's 3-pointer in the twitch of an eye turned what should have been a 5-point game into a tie at 78.

Timeout Wolves.

"Our guys, they could have easily folded there," Adelman said, "and we didn't."

This was the kind of turn of events that would have buried the Wolves a season ago, wasn't it?

"Probably," Tolliver said.

Tolliver said his layup seemed so far down, he thought it had gone through the rim.

It's a bit of hyperbole, but you get his point.

But instead of panic or a sense of impending doom, Tolliver said he and his teammates were unfazed in the huddle.

"Don't worry about it, we're still right there," he said about the mood. "We still had control of the game. It was a big play, but we knew we just had to keep our composure. That's one of those players that makes us or breaks us. I really felt like everybody came out more focused and put that no-call behind us."

Had that happened this time last season?

"I don't know last year or years ago," Rubio said. "But this year, we will try to play hard those last minutes to win as much games as possible."

Rubio helped ensure that Friday.

After Belinelli tied the game, Rubio turned it back in his team's favor again by creating two drives that drew fouls.

He made all four free throws and the Wolves were off on a decisive 7-0 run that started with Rubio's free throws and ended with four by Love.

He made the first three and then missed the fourth that cost him a club record for free-throw perfection (see the above game-story link for more) after Rubio basically already had determined the game with those two previous possessions.

"We just had to keep playing," Adelman said. "It's a tied game. We're still in control. We had to score. We had to get stops. It was coming down to that. You can't worry about what happened there."

That's all from New Orleans tonight.

I'll check in from Atlanta pre-game tomorrow as the Wolves look to build a winning road record (they're 2-2 after tonight) against a Hawks team missing center Al Horford, who's out at least three months with that torn pectoral muscle.

 

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