Thrills follow chilly start for Wolves

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 19, 2012 - 6:39 AM

Miss after ugly miss put the Wolves in an early hole, but reserves came to the rescue in the second half and outscrapped the Pistons at both ends.

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<i>Clang, clang, clang.</i>

For most of the first half of Wednesday's game with Detroit at Target Center the Timberwolves were as cold as our suddenly frigid January. Shot after shot, off the mark. Afterward, Ricky Rubio wondered aloud if the team had used up all its shots beating the Kings on Monday.

"But when that happens, you have to be hard on defense," Rubio said.

Well put. There was a time not too long ago when an off night on offense meant a losing result. Not Wednesday. The Wolves christened their second two-game winning streak of the season with a come-from-way-behind 93-85 victory over Detroit.

"This is a really good win," coach Rick Adelman said. "The way we shot the ball in the first half? And we're only down six at halftime?"

The fans might have been surprised, too.

The Wolves shot 25 percent in the first quarter, 33 percent in the second. And they were still in it.

Down seven entering the fourth, the Wolves scored the first seven points of the quarter. A Kevin Love jump hook with 6:31 left gave the Wolves (6-8) the lead for good.

"When we got to within six at the end of the first half, I knew we were going to win," backup point guard J.J. Barea said. "Because we were going to make shots at some point."

Love (20 points, 17 rebounds) and Rubio (nine points, eight assists, seven rebounds and six steals) got the gaudy numbers. But it was the Wolves bench that made it all possible.

Reserves scored 46 of the Wolves' points. And it was players coming off the bench -- namely Nikola Pekovic, Wayne Ellington and Anthony Tolliver -- whose defense made the difference.

Pekovic and Tolliver each scored 11 points, Ellington seven. Pekovic played tough defense inside on Pistons center Greg Monroe. Ellington did stellar work on the perimeter. After Detroit's Tayshaun Prince (29 points) scored 25 through three quarters, Tolliver shut him down, if not out, as the Wolves took over in the fourth.

"Accountability is a huge part of it," Tolliver said. "Last year we didn't have that. ... I don't feel there was much around the whole organization. But now if you don't play defense, you're coming out of the game, period."

And if you do, you stay in. That's why a lineup that included Pekovic and Tolliver helped the Wolves rally from 16 down with 3:55 left in the first half to within six at halftime. Or why Adelman trotted Pekovic out for the start of the third. Or why a lineup of Derrick Williams, Barea, Ellington, Love and Tolliver started the fourth quarter with that 7-0 run and tied the score at 71 with 9:40 left.

Then Rubio returned and helped the Wolves close the door. Love gave the Wolves the lead for good. Ellington's drive for a slam and his three-pointer helped. So did Tolliver's dunk moments later that put the Wolves up seven.

"For us to come out big in the second half showed good character," Love said. "Good poise. We didn't knock down too many shots. But we did when it counted."

Reserves scored 20 of the Wolves' 29 fourth-quarter points. But the defense stood out. Rubio had two fourth-quarter steals. The Wolves forced Detroit into 5-for-16 shooting and forced six turnovers.

"That's something that's been lacking the last few years," Love said. "It feels good that, in games like this, when it's ugly on the offensive end, we're still able to get the job done.''

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