Playing between the two Kevins — Love and Martin — has been an adjustment for Nikola Pekovic. Not always an easy one, mind you, and sometimes maybe even a little frustrating.
But it’s starting to come.
Saturday at Target Center, the Timberwolves — playing the night after a listless loss at Denver, playing for the fifth time in seven nights, playing tired — pushed through the fatigue and got a bounce-back 106-88 victory over Boston.
And they did it the old-fashioned way: by letting big Pek set the tone down low. He scored 10 of his 20 points and got six of his 12 rebounds in the third quarter when the Wolves (7-4) turned a four-point game into a 19-point runaway. For the Wolves, it was their second-best start after 11 games.
For coach Rick Adelman, it signaled a return to playing interior defense. For Pekovic, it just felt like old times.
“I know I will not always have the same role,” Pekovic said. “Between the two Kevins, they’ll take the majority of the shots. I’m just trying to be in the best position whenever I can.’’
Saturday Pekovic and Kevin Love (23 points, 12 rebounds) got the better of the smaller Boston frontcourt. Kevin Martin finished with 20 points, also getting 10 in the third. A productive bench got 13 points from J.J. Barea, 12 from Dante Cunningham and eight from Robbie Hummel.
Boston (4-7) was led by Avery Bradley’s game-high 27 points. Brandon Bass added 15, Jordan Crawford 10.
But this victory started down low with Pekovic, at both ends of the court. In Denver on Friday, the Wolves allowed 64 points in the paint and 21 second-chance points.
Against Boston those numbers dropped to 28 and 18. Pekovic got eight of the Wolves’ 16 offensive rebounds, made eight of his nine shots.
“He was on the boards; they had a hard time guarding him,” Adelman said. “It was nice to see him come out and play like that.’’
Still, the Celtics, who had trailed by as many as 17 in the first half, had pulled to within 59-55 on Bradley’s 20-foot jumper just over two minutes into the third quarter.
That’s when the Wolves took over. Love hit two free throws, then Pekovic grabbed an offensive rebound, was fouled and hit two more to kick-start an 11-0 run that pushed the lead back to 15. Moments later Pekovic’s three-point play pushed that lead to 16 and the Wolves were on their way.