It was as if a switch was flipped, a light went on.
For the first quarter and a half of Friday’s game with Orlando at Target Center, the Timberwolves couldn’t get a stop. The rest of the way it appeared the Wolves couldn’t do anything wrong.
The result: The Wolves went from 19 points down to a 120-103 victory over the Magic. In the process, the Wolves (18-21) ended a two-game losing streak.
So. What happened?
“We played defense,’’ said Jeff Teague, after producing a 23-point, 10-assist double-double in his first game back after missing nine because of a sore ankle.
“We got some energy from AT,’’ Taj Gibson said of Anthony Tolliver, who came out of mothballs to have another strong game.
“We said, ‘We have to change the game,’ ’’ said Karl-Anthony Towns, who scored 21 of his 29 points in the second half to go with 15 rebounds.
All of the above is true.
With Robert Covington and Derrick Rose out, the Wolves still got it done in front of 14,355 fans, coming out of a timeout with 6:28 left in the first half down 19, and finishing the game on a 76-40 run.
Things really got rolling with the Wolves down 18, moments after that timeout. Tolliver (11 points) hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions, and suddenly it was a 12-point game. And then the Wolves kicked it up a notch on defense.
“Once we got rolling, got into the thick of things, we played some solid defense,’’ Gibson said. “The energy picked up, and that’s when we just took off.’’
Tolliver? He wanted to talk about the defense he played rather than the shots he made. But he had to admit, the two treys were big.
“When you make shots, the crowd gets into it a little more,’’ he said.
And so did the Wolves.
Before: The Magic (17-21) shot 26-for-34 while building a 63-44 lead.
After: The Magic finished the game 16-for-54.
Night and day. By the time the half ended the Wolves were within four points. Then the Wolves began the third quarter on an 18-4 run to go up by 10 on Andrew Wiggins’ 10-footer with 7:42 left in the quarter.
The Wolves never lost control of the game again, building a lead as large as 21 points.
“I thought the last five minutes of the second quarter we got going,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “We got some stops. Anthony gave us a big lift. The defense, in the second half, was great.’’
Towns outplayed Magic center Nikola Vucevic, finishing the game with a flourish by scoring nine fourth-quarter points. After the game Thibodeau said Towns was in the middle of the best stretch of play in his career.
“Thibs said something nice about me?’’ Towns joked. “I must be doing something right then.’’
Teague showed no rust at all. Tolliver, mired deep on the bench for much of the season, had his second straight productive game, even as the power forward was being asked to play — and defend — on the perimeter.
It was a good way to start a stretch in which the Wolves will play six of eight games at home, where they are now 13-6.
“We eased into the game, and you can’t do that,’’ Thibodeau said. “But once we got going, we made a couple hustle plays. That will usually ignite you. Once we did that, the defense got going.’’