The Minnesota Timberwolves finally closed out a close game and walked away with the victory. If that's not impressive enough, they did so by making 9 of 10 attempts at the free throw line in the final two minutes (from three different) players to knock off the Hornets, 87-80. The Timberwolves finished shooting 86% from the free throw line!
Minnesota got off to a sluggish start, allowing DaJuan Summers to score the Hornets' first 5 points, in his first start with the Hornets this season. After the first quarter, the Hornets led 21-16. Wesley Johnson had a solid first quarter scoring 7 of his 9 points on the night.
The Timberwolves were able to put together a run in the second quarter that allowed them to narrow the deficit by just one-point; 37-38 in the first half. Luke Ridnour scored the final 5 points of the half to get Minnesota within one.
The Timberwolves dominated the third quarter, allowing the Hornets to score just 13 points the entire quarter! That left the Wolves holding a 12-point advantage going into the final quarter; 63-51.
Then, came the fourth quarter. The Hornets were able to put a couple runs together that allowed them to get back in the game. A real game changer was a shot Tolliver put up in the paint that was 'blocked' by Gustavo Ayon. It was a clear goaltending call as the ball actually hit the backboard before Ayon swatted it. The Hornets got down the court quick and Marco Belinelli threw up a three that went down to tie the score at 78 with just two minutes to go. The Hornets were in the bonus and the Hornets continued to be suckered into easy foul calls. Ricky Rubio went to the line twice with 1:46 to and 55.2 to go, he hit all four putting Minnesota up 4. Another empty trip for New Orleans led to a rebound for Love that he was fouled on. Within the next 20 seconds Love went to the line twice and went 3 of 4, putting Minnesota up by 7. The next trip was a 2-point bank shot by Marco Belinelli cut the score to 85-80. An intentional foul on Ridnour, resulted in two more made free throws, allowing Minnesota to walk away with the 7-point victory.
Let's take a look at some statistics from each team tonight...
Clearly, Minnesota did their damage at the free-throw line. Surprising considering this was something they've struggled with all season long. As a matter of fact, Kevin Love shot more free throws (and made more) than the entire team of Hornets (Love went 17-for-18 at the line). Once again Minnesota struggled to control the ball and turned it over 17 times! For the Hornets the one stat that stands out to me? 32 team fouls! 32! That's crazy, a lot of loose ball foul call throughout the contest. Had Minnesota had one of their notoriously bad nights from the free throw line, they wouldn't be 4-7 this season!
Let's take a look at some statistics for each team's key players in tonight's contest...
Kevin Love had a great second half scoring 28 of his 34 points all in the final two quarters (17 in the 3rd & 11 in the 4th). His free throw shooting and rebounding were the boost the Wolves need to be successful. He picked up his shooting and rebounding in the second half as well. For Ricky, it was his first start and he did so alongside Luke Ridnour. Rubio played a season/career-high 44 minutes. We'll see if he remains in the starting lineup going forward (no reason he shouldn't). For the Hornets it was Belinelli & Okafor. Belinelli working the perimeter knocking down plenty of deep & mid-range shots. For Okafor the majority of his points came in the paint, though he did step out and hit a few mid-range shots as well. His post-game certainly looked improved, perhaps it has something to do with the Hornets' acquisition of Chris Kaman (helping out the defensive big man).
That's all for now, stay tuned for some videos and pictures from tonight's game. Also coming up: the Timberwolves vs. the Hawks tomorrow with a 6pmCT tip--a full gameday preview of that one can be found on this site before then. Thanks for reading and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!