The Wolves struggled mightily, especially in the second quarter, but their stingy team defense kept them out of trouble and raised their record to 3-1.
A year or two ago, there probably would have been a little letdown after a big win. A year ago, the Wolves might have followed Monday's come-from- behind victory in Brooklyn with a stinker.
Not this time.
On a night when shots at times weren't going down, the Wolves kept their defensive intensity up. Way up. The result was an easy 90-75 victory over Orlando at Target Center. And, just like that, the Wolves have a two-game winning streak and a 3-1 record, with injured stars Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio still wearing suits on the bench.
"We got off to a good start defensively last year," said Wolves guard Luke Ridnour, who led all scorers with 19 points. "But this year it's better. Guys are in the right places. This is not so much individual defense, it's all team defense. Everybody is helping each other."
If it was the bench that led the charge back in Brooklyn on Monday, it was the starting unit Wednesday that set the tone, building a 25-12 lead after one quarter. That's when things started to go awry for the Wolves. They missed their first 11 shots of the second quarter, not getting a field goal until reserve guard Alexey Shved drove the lane with 5:52 left in the half. The ball stopped moving, the turnovers rose, the shots clanked.
And it didn't matter.
Because Orlando was being harassed into a 28-for-80 shooting night. The Magic entered the game with a 2-1 record based on offense; Orlando was fifth in scoring (103.3 points per game), eighth in field-goal percentage (46.6) and third in three-point shooting (48.9). On Wednesday the Magic scored 75 points on 35 percent shooting and was 3-for-12 from beyond the arc. The Wolves, who entered the game second in the league in blocks (8.7), picked up nine more.
And so the Wolves never lost the lead, and anyone watching never got the feeling they would.
Minnesota's lead was cut to seven at 62-55 after J.J. Redick hit a jumper with 1:09 left in the third quarter. But J.J. Barea fed Greg Stiemsma for three consecutive hoops to push the lead to 68-55 entering the fourth. The Wolves stretched their lead to 20 early in the fourth and cruised home.
But their defense never let up. With the game all but over in the closing seconds, Stiemsma hustled for his second block of the night and the team's ninth.
In all, six Wolves had five or more rebounds, four had three or more assists, three had two blocked shots and eight players had at least one steal.
"Defense is all effort," forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "Of course, you have to understand the defense, all that, blah, blah, blah. But it's effort. It's everybody trying to get your man, trying to help each other. That's how this works. I think as a team, we are on that page."
And, the Wolves said, just wait until the offense starts clicking the same way. As it is, the team is off to its first 3-1 start since the 2001-02 season, and it ended a seven-game losing streak to the Magic. All of the team's three victories have been by double digits.
But, it seems, somebody new provides the push in each game.
"The second team was great in Brooklyn, and tonight the first group in the first quarter was terrific and the second group couldn't do anything," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "When we put it together and get both groups playing the same, we will be fine."
|East Tenn St||64||FINAL|
|Fla Gulf Coast||69|
|Sam Houston St||71|
|UC Santa Barbara||86|
|New Mexico St||81|
|Stephen F Austin||83|
|SE Missouri St||76||FINAL|
|Cal State Fullerton||44|
|Long Beach State||83||FINAL|
|Sam Houston St||93|
|Stephen F Austin||72|
|East Tenn St||74||FINAL|
|(13) North Carolina||69|
|New Mexico St||56||FINAL|
|Long Beach St||49|
|Cal State Fullerton||72||FINAL|
|UC Santa Barbara||60||FINAL|