Bench leads Wolves to win with fourth-quarter comeback

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 29, 2012 - 7:49 AM

Michael Beasley and Derrick Williams came off the bench to lift the Wolves past the Clippers after Kevin Love found early foul trouble.

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LOS ANGELES - Timberwolves forward Derrick Williams returned to Los Angeles on Tuesday night and really looked at home for the first time during his rookie season in a 109-97 victory over the Clippers at Staples Center.

Six days and one game after he gave a glimpse of his emergence by playing the entire fourth quarter against Utah, Williams delivered the performance of his young career against the Clippers by scoring a career-high 27 points in 28 minutes.

He made nine of 10 shots -- including all four three-pointers he attempted ---in a performance that teammate Michael Beasley matched step by step.

Like Williams, Beasley also scored 27 points. Like Williams, he also scored 13 points in the fourth quarter alone, when the Wolves equaled exactly the 36-21 margin they used to overcome the Jazz last Wednesday.

"It all started with Derrick," Beasley said. "It's his night, it's his city. He was just going out there with a clear mind playing the game he has been playing for 21 years now. I expect that out of him every night. I wasn't that surprised."

The Wolves' 72 bench points -- 54 from them from Williams and Beasley alone -- are the most in the NBA this season and two shy of a franchise record.

Tuesday's game also was the first time in franchise history that two players each scored 25 or more points off the bench. The Wolves' 27 assists -- nine from Ricky Rubio, seven from J.J. Barea -- also were a season high on a night when Rubio played only 84 seconds and All-Star Kevin Love not at all in the fourth quarter.

Williams and Beasley combined to shoot 80 percent from the field -- 20 for 25 -- and made all seven threes they tried.

"Nine of 10, 90 percent, I don't think I'm going to do that most nights," Williams said. "A night like tonight, here in L.A., it means a lot, especially for my family as well. Everybody's coming out to see me. It's kind of hard being a rookie all the way in Minnesota. Being home is always a great feeling."

Especially when Williams and Beasley played like they did off the bench Tuesday.

"That's what we want to do, earn Coach's trust," said Williams, who estimated he had 35 to 40 family members and friends at the game. "That's our job: Get a lot of points, get a lot of stops. Beasley can flat out score. I'm not surprised by what he did tonight."

The victory moved the Wolves back over .500 (18-17) for the second time this season.

The Wolves embarked on a fierce part of their schedule that coach Rick Adelman contends will determine even more than if they really are a playoff contender. He said before the game that this stretch where the Wolves play three road games in the next three nights and 11 of their next 15 on the road will reveal "who we are."

Call Tuesday's early results encouraging, to say the least.

The Wolves started that stretch by winning for the fifth time in six games and by beating the Pacific Division leader.

"If we're going to make any kind of noise at all moving forward, we've got to win against good teams on the road and this is a big statement for us," Adelman said afterward. "Our guys in the locker room, I think they realize it."

The performances delivered by Williams and Beasley allowed Adelman to limit Love to 25 minutes played and Rubio to 29.

Love entered the game as the league leader in minutes and the last time the Wolves played, he looked utterly exhausted as he sat at his locker after Wednesday's victory over Utah.

His minutes were limited Tuesday because he got two quick fouls trying to guard Blake Griffin (a game-high 30 points) and because he sustained a contusion when he got hit in the ribs in the third quarter. He put on a padded shirt and was available to play in the fourth quarter, a decision Adelman never had to make.

"I was going to put him back in, but that group had it going so well," Adelman said. "No need to push anybody."

That group included reserve center Darko Milicic, who once again turned into something of a Blake Buster. Five weeks after he delivered a 34-minute, 22-point, seven-rebound matched up mostly against the Clippers' bouncy All-Star forward, Milicic played most of the fourth quarter and limited Griffin to only one point in the fourth quarter.

The Wolves' second and final stretch this season of three games in three nights continues Wednesday with another game at Staples Center, this time against the Lakers.


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