The Minnesota Timberwolves looked like a well-oiled machine tonight as they defeated the Western Conference's worst team 115-86.
The TWolves got hot early and never cooled off. It seemed as though they took a page from the Lakers' book (from last night) and got off to a hot start, however unlike the Lakers, the Wolves never let the Hornets back into the game.
The Wolves built a 30-point lead by the second half and although a letdown was in the back of all our minds, the Wolves never let up and won by 29 points! The game was so lopsided that the Wolves held a 20+ lead for the second half of the second quarter all the way to the final buzzer!
The Timberwolves jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first quarter: 33-14. Minnesota got 7 points apiece from Rubio, Kirilenko & Pekovic as they all established themselves early and often in this one. Rubio was the most surprising. He drove the lane three separate times and finished his attempts at the rim--something he's definitely struggled with this season. Minnesota shot 75% in the first quarter (12-for-16) and held an 18-2 advantage in points in the paint.
The second quarter was much the same as the Wolves continue to dominate. Dante Cunningham scored 10 of his 18 points in the second quarter and both Shved & Gelabale added 5 each for a 25-point Wolves quarter. The Hornets got 6 points each from both Robin Lopez & Jason Smith. The Wolves took a 58-313 lead at the half thanks in large part to their solid play on both ends. At the half, the Wolves were shooting 60.5% from the field, out-rebounding the Hornets by a +7, had the same number of assists the Hornets would finish the night with (15) and had forced the NO into 13 turnovers, while dominating them down low, holding a 26-8 advantage in points in the paint.
Coming into the third quarter, the worry was concerning an infamous 3rdQ letdown that the Wolves have become rather infamous for this season. Instead, they played near even with the Hornets, being outscored by just one point: 23-24. The Wolves got 5 points apiece from both Kirilenko & Ridnour, while the Hornets put their big men to work, Anthony Davis scored 7 of his 18 and Lopez added 8 of his 16 in the third.
None of the Wolves' starters played in the fourth quarter. J.J. Barea & Alexey Shved ran the backcourt while Gelabale, Amundson and Johnson rounded out the frontcourt. Every single bench player scored in that final quarter for the Wolves. The Wolves had 68 bench points on the night and 34 of them came in the fourth.
The Wolves are now 18-26 and hopefully this game can act as a turning point at this point in the season. The Wolves have only won 2 of their last 13 games, but they've clearly shown that they can win games and compete with anyone.
Dante Cunningham was the star in this one. He finished with a season-high 18 points on a perfect 9-of-9 shooting, also adding 4 rebounds and 2 steals in 26 minutes off the bench. His perfect night from the field sets a franchise record for most made field goals without a miss! Pekovic added 14pts, 7reb, 1stl, 1blk in 24 minutes; Kirilenko had 12pts, 6reb, 3ast, 2stls and Shved finished with 12pts, 4reb, 8ast and 1blk. It was a very balanced scoring effort as everyone on the roster scored.
MISC. PLAYER STATS: Lou Amundson tied season-highs with his 8 points, 4 made field goals and 1 assist.......Dante Cunningham set new season-highs with his 18 points and 9 made field goals......Mickael Gelabale tied season-highs with his 1 made three, 2 attempted threes and 4 defensive rebounds.......Chris Johnson also tied a season-high with 1 steal......
The Hornets were led by their starting frontcourt. Anthony Davis had 18pts, 4reb, 1ast, 2stls and 1blk while Robin Lopez added 16pts, 2reb and 1stl.
As you can see by those above numbers, the Hornets struggled to battle the Wolves on the boards. The Wolves out-rebounded the Hornets 44-28 in this one. When you're starting PF & C can only grab 6 rebounds in a game, it's going to be hard to win, especially when you're facing a good rebounding team like Minnesota. The Wolves finished the night 45-for-77 from the field (58.4%), they held a 58-32 advantage in points in the paint (+26) and got 68 points off their bench. The biggest key in this one though was forcing the Hornets into 23 turnovers which they turned into 29 points! The Hornets did force the Wolves into 18 of their own, but the TWolves were MUCH better defensively and only allowed 7 points off them.
Everyone showed a continued willingness to fight and tonight everything played into the Wolves' favor for a much needed win.
MISC. TEAM STATS: The Wolves set new season-highs in field goal percentage (58.4%), personal fouls (27) and points (115). They also tied a season-high with their 30 assists and tied the second-best mark of the season with their 45 made field goals......The Hornets set new season-highs for a Wolves opponent with their 27 made free throws and 23 turnovers. They also set the second-best mark for a Wolves opponent with their 33 free throw attempts.......The Hornets set new season-lows (for a Wolves opponent) with their 70 field goal attempts, they set the second-worst marks with their 19 offensive rebounds and 28 total rebounds and also tied the second-worst marks of the season with their 28 made field goals, 3 made threes and 15 assists.......
That's all for now, the Wolves are back in action on Monday vs. the Portland Trailblazers. Until then, thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!