On Friday everybody was smiling again.
In a 119-92 thrashing of the Charlotte Bobcats at Target Center, the Wolves proved again to be as resilient as they are inconsistent.
The victory came two days after yet another late-game meltdown against Phoenix dropped Minnesota to 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer, a loss exacerbated by Kevin Love’s postgame decision to call out reserves J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham for not joining the team during timeouts down the stretch.
Again, Minnesota responded.
The Wolves are now 8-2 after those 10 close losses. They have won a league-leading eight games by 20 or more points. Minnesota hasn’t figured out how to win the close ones yet, but it sure knows how to win big.
“I wish we could meet somewhere in the middle there,” said Love, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds. “We’ve been resilient. But now we need to have one good streak and we’re right back to where we want to be.”
What was most striking about this win was the depth of the production. Starters Kevin Martin (19 points), Love and Nikola Pekovic (26) took turns dominating the first, second and third quarters. Pekovic, in particular, made things difficult for former Wolves player Al Jefferson from start to finish, scoring 15 points in the third quarter.
But this time the victory went deep into the team’s bench. For the first time since March 3, 2012, coach Rick Adelman had a completely healthy roster, and that depth started showing itself against the Bobcats — only a couple of days after Barea and Cunningham were chastised by Love, ostensibly because of their unhappiness over playing time.
Competition for minutes is only going to get keener.
After a back-and-forth first quarter had the Wolves up one, a lineup of reserves opened the second quarter on an 18-6 run — with Barea scoring seven points and Alexey Shved six — to push the lead to 13. That lead grew to 20 points by halftime and as high as 31 in the third quarter.
Depth? The Wolves bench scored 43 points, with Shved scoring 11, Chase Budinger eight and Cunningham six. Budinger’s return has helped the spacing with the second unit, and Ronny Turiaf’s return has given the Wolves a player capable of protecting the rim.
“It was great,” Barea said. “We did a good job of letting the other night go. We forgot about that already. We’re back winning and we have to keep it going.”
Add that to a starting unit that shot a combined 30-for-49 (61.2 percent), and you have the ingredients for success. The Wolves, back to .500 yet again, just have to mix in a little more consistency.
“We keep going back and forth,” Adelman said. “Somehow we have to get a couple wins in a row. I told them at halftime, when the game’s on the line, we’re making the same mistakes over and over. We can’t keep doing that. We don’t have to do that. We have to keep pushing ourselves, realize why we’ve lost those games, and not let it happen again.”
Easier said than done, especially Sunday, when the Wolves travel to San Antonio to play the powerhouse Spurs.
But, Friday night, the players were more interested in savoring another one-sided bounce-back victory.
“They want to be a good team,” Adelman said. “They have to find out how they’re going to do that. We’re so close.’’