The Wolves returned from their holiday break looking more like the team they want to be, crushing the Washington Wizards 120-98 on Friday at Target Center as they shook off an early deficit and let Wizards guard John Wall do his thing in the first half.
All five starters had scored in double figures by the third quarter. Kevin Love finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Nikola Pekovic had 18 and 10. Ricky Rubio had 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. And even J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved combined to score 30 off the bench. The Wolves defeated the Wizards for the fourth straight time at Target Center.
And the foot stayed on the throat this time, as the Wolves eased to a 21-point win. That certainly help shake off their game on Sunday against the Clippers, where they choked away a lead in the last minute.
Everyone was in a bad mood after that game. Head coach Rick Adelman and guard Kevin Martin declined to elaborate on their feelings to avoid getting fined, and Kevin Love indicated that the loss would linger for a while. But there had to go down just a smooth as their Christmas egg nog as they dominated the Wizards in several categories.
The Wolves now head to Milwaukee with a chance to take both games of their back-to-back weekend when they face the team with the worst record in the NBA in the Bucks
Washington opened a with a 9-0 spurt, fueled by six missed shots by the Wolves, two of them missed layups by Pekovic and Kevin Martin. Adelman rose from the seat and paced the sidelines, but wouldn’t call a timeout. It was 11-4 when Adelman finally made the signal, and Love roared out of it with a 11 consecutive points to bring the Wolves with 15-13. Former Wolf Martell Webster threw an errant pass, Martin drove for a layup, and the Wolves were all the way back.
The Wizards still led 23-22 after the first quarter, during which John Wall scored 11 points. The third-year guard’s game continues to evolve, as he’s more efficient when he levitates toward the basket and his 9.1 assists entering the game show he’s finding the right teammates at the right time.
“If he doesn’t get to the basket he’s finding them,’’ Adelman said.
Adelman said before the game that not just Ricky Rubio, who would likely draw the assignment of defending Wall but the entire team would have to pitch in to stop his attacks toward the basket.
If everyone tried to help on Friday, then Wall scored on everybody as he had 22 points by halftime.
But the Wolves opened up the second quarter with a 13-3 run, including four points from Barea and Pekovic. They outscored the Wizards 39-24 in the second quarter to take a 61-47 lead at the break. Love had 18 points. Pekovic had 12. The Wolves shot 60.8 percent from the field, enjoyed a 26-19 rebounding advantage and went to the free throw line 21 times (making 18) to seven for Washington.
So the Wolves were at that point again. Were they going to close the deal this team or lament another second half meltdown? Playing at home, the Wolves didn’t fall apart in the second half. It was the best way to begin a stretch during which six of their next eight games will be at Target Center.