The Timberwolves combined hot shooting and ballhawking defense to end their skid with a romp.
The Timberwolves needed this, big time.
Especially after a bitterly cold end to January, with the losing bleeding into February. After losing six straight games and 11 in 12, the Wolves needed a nice, tidy little blowout.
"Did this feel great?" asked J.J. Barea, smiling. "Oh, man, yes. This was good for the team.''
The Wolves exorcised a bit of pain Saturday at Target Center with a 115-86 romp over a New Orleans Hornets team that had won three of four and seven of nine entering the game.
They did it by scoring in streaks and sometimes seemingly at will. The Wolves led by 19 after one quarter, by as much as 30 in the second and by as much as 34 -- the team's biggest lead of the season -- late in the fourth quarter. The victory margin was, by far, the team's biggest of the season.
The starters set the tone, and the bench followed suit. The Wolves shot a season-best 58.4 percent (45-for-77) while playing strong defense throughout. They pounded the Hornets in the paint, where they scored 59 points, and on defense, forcing 23 New Orleans turnovers that resulted in another 29 points.
"Just such a solid win for our guys," coach Rick Adelman said. "All the way through. I thought we defended well, the ball moved. Just a solid, solid four quarters."
Twelve Wolves players -- every able-bodied man on the roster -- scored Saturday night, led by Dante Cunningham, who came off the bench to score 18 points on 9-for-9 shooting, a team single-game record for most consecutive shots made.
Nikola Pekovic added 14, Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko had 12, and Mickael Gelabale had 11. The bench contributed 68 points, with the starters spending the fourth quarter on the bench cheering the effort.
With the victory the Wolves (18-26) broke a season-high six-game losing streak. And, to show how unpredictable the NBA is:
On Friday, the Wolves fell behind the Lakers by 29 points, but about 24 hours later they held a 34-point lead over the Hornets (15-33), who were playing without guard Eric Gordon. On Friday, the Lakers' 68 first-half points were the most allowed by the Wolves this year. New Orleans' 31 first-half points Saturday were the fewest by a Wolves opponent this season.
What a difference a day makes.
"We learned a lot from [Friday's game]," Ricky Rubio said. "We knew we had to start the game aggressive.''
A day after answering questions about yet another loss, the toughest query fielded Saturday came when Rubio was asked to rank who had finished best off one of his alley-oop passes: Pekovic, Cunningham or Kirilenko?
"I don't want to pick," Rubio joked. "Because they're going to get mad at me and miss the alley-oop and make me look bad. But the one with D.C. looked good. It was high, and he can jump."
For at least one night, the Wolves were able to stop thinking about losing, though the hole the team has dug will require a lot more work to exit.
But the four-quarters nature of the team's effort against New Orleans was reason for optimism.
"It was good for our team to get a win like that," said Luke Ridnour. "We've been in so many tough games lately, and lost so many. To get a big win, where everybody gets to come in and play and contribute, was good. It's been a long time, that's for sure. Hopefully we can build on it."
|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|