In this compressed, post-lockout NBA season, where games come fast and furious, practice time is rare. So you have to make the most of the ones you get.
Which brings us to the Timberwolves. After four consecutive losses filled with turnovers and choppy offensive execution, coach Rick Adelman and his staff spent Tuesday tweaking the team's attack. Talk about results: a 102-90 victory over the struggling Charlotte Bobcats on Wednesday at Target Center. The Wolves:
• Moved the ball wonderfully, finishing with a season-high 26 assists on 43 made field goals, with only 13 turnovers.
• Made more than half of their shots (43-for-85, .506) for the first time in nine games.
• Proved once again what can happen when an experienced coach talks and his team listens.
"You can't go out and do any contact," Adelman said after the Wolves (14-16) had handed Charlotte (3-26) its 16th loss in a row. "You have to do a mental practice, and that's what we did [Tuesday]. We did a walkthrough, we talked about it, showed 'em."
Adelman's message was clear. The Wolves were dependent on pick-and-roll plays, and teams were figuring out ways to stop it. So the team needed to tweak things, get into the pick-and-roll after moving the ball from one side to another. Get some flow to the offense and run multiple pick-and-rolls if necessary until the open shot presented itself.
And then make it.
Kevin Love did. He made 11 of 21 shots on the way to 30 points and 18 rebounds. So did Nikola Pekovic, who got his seventh double-double in 11 games (21 points, 11 boards). Ditto for Luke Ridnour (10 points) and J.J. Barea (12).
Ricky Rubio got six points, seven assists and four steals in three quarters before resting the final 12 minutes -- not because Adelman was unhappy with him, but because the group of Ridnour, Barea, Love, Pekovic and Martell Webster was doing such a good job.
Actually, that five was on the floor for the end of the third quarter, which ended with the Wolves on a 10-0 run that broke open a tie game. That same group helped push the lead to 19 at 89-70 on Barea's three-pointer with 7:17 left in the game.
By then the offense was humming. The Wolves were more organized getting into their sets and coming out with open shots.
"That's something we talked about [Tuesday]," Ridnour said. "We've done so well in the pick-and-roll, it kind of made it easy for teams to guard us. But we moved the ball, side to side, got everyone involved and everyone made plays tonight. It was a good win."
The Bobcats did hang in the game longer than expected. Charlotte, getting healthier with Corey Maggette and D.J. Augustin back in the rotation, built an early 15-6 lead and scored 30 first-quarter points before the Wolves started to lock down on defense. Still, the Bobcats -- behind Kemba Walker (21 points), Maggette (18) and Boris Diaw (14) -- were answering every Wolves run with one of their own until late in the third quarter with the score tied 66-66.
But eventually, the Wolves kicked it into a higher gear. Barea, Ridnour and Rubio combined for 20 assists and four turnovers. Barea had none.
"You saw that in the second half," said Barea, who had a team-high eight assists. "We moved the ball, we went from one pick-and-roll to the other one. We were able to find the open guy. That made it a lot easier."
So what a difference a practice makes, right? "We're going to do it again [Thursday]," Adelman said.