The Timberwolves reached last season’s total on Friday night with this season’s 31st victory, a 114-101 decision over Detroit at Target Center that delivered everything they had failed to do two nights earlier against New York.
On Wednesday, they were thumped by a Knicks team that had lost seven consecutive games and 10 of its past 11. It was a loss Wolves players on Friday still partly attributed to the lingering fatigue from a successful five-game road trip that ended Monday night in Denver.
On Friday, they did what New York had just done to them, running off to a 39-point first quarter and leads of 33-13 before quarter’s end, 55-31 midway through the second quarter and 95-64 by late in the third quarter.
But coach Rick Adelman was forced to put his starters back into the game after the Pistons made a fourth-quarter run.
“We have learned our lesson from our last game at home,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said.
This time, the Wolves played with energy and urgency from the beginning, moving back over .500 by a game, and staying five games behind Dallas in pursuit of the Western Conference’s eighth playoff spot.
The Pistons have lost nine of 11 games and are 14 games below .500, but remain closer to the playoffs in the East than the Wolves are in the West.
“We sit here, 31 wins, in a tough Western Conference,” Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin said. “But with five weeks and 21 games left, this is where you guys were sitting at last year, so I think this locker room is confident.”
Talking to media members before Friday’s game, Adelman called for Martin to be more “aggressive” seeking his shot than he was in Wednesday game, when the Wolves trailed 9-0 before they knew it.
This time, Martin took six shots, made four and scored 11 points by first quarter’s end, when the Wolves easily surpassed 30 points for a league-leading 26th time this season.
“He has been in the league nine years at this point. He should know how to get himself going and I thought he did it,” Adelman said of Martin.
Martin complemented Kevin Love’s 28-point, 14-rebound night by scoring 24 himself.
Rubio approached a triple-double with a 11-point, nine-assist, eight-rebound night.
“I was kind of lucky because they missed a couple dunks and the ball went to my hands,” Rubio said, “and I was feeling like Kevin Love out there.”
Rubio, Love and the other three starters seemingly had sat down for the night when the Wolves led by 28 points to start the fourth quarter. But Adelman had to bring them back after the Pistons opened the quarter with a 13-2 run against the Wolves’ second unit.
Adelman praised his team’s play for 42-plus minutes and said “I’m not going to take this game down” for those five minutes but also reminded that his starters and reserves alike both need to learn to play with better control when they lead big.
“Sooner or later that will cost you a game,” he said. “We have to have more discipline in what we do.”
Rubio saw only the bigger picture afterward.
“If you want to take the bad things, go ahead,” he said. “Today I think we did a really, really good job except for six, seven minutes, so we have to be very happy how we played today. Of course it wasn’t perfect, but we beat Detroit.”