The TWolves found themselves up 15 after just one quarter and seemed to be well on their way to an easy victory over the worst team in the Western Conference.
Unfortunately in the final three quarters Minnesota's wheels fell off...in fact the lights dimmed, the windows shattered and the engine stalled.
The Minnesota Timberwolves had just nine healthy players as they continue to play on without Kevin Love (hand), Brandon Roy (knee), Chase Budinger (knee) and Malcolm Lee (knee). However on Friday night they also played without J.J. Barea (back) and Lazar Hayward (ill). They were going up against a Hornets squad that had a full roster (with no significant injuries) and after just 12 minutes and 1 second head coach Monty Williams had played every player on his roster!
The Wolves led 29-14 after one quarter that was thanks in large part to a hot start from Nikola Pekovic. Nikola scored the Wolves' first six points and scored 10 of his 18 total points in the first. The Wolves strung together a 20-2 run during the quarter. The Hornets turned the ball over 7 times and shot just 35.3% from the field.
Things got incredibly sloppy in the second quarter as the Hornets came roaring back from 15 down and scoring just 14 points in the first quarter. A 21-10 run helped cut the lead to just a two possession game heading into the halftime.
Things turned even worse in the third quarter as the Wolves were outscored 15-30. Anthony Davis scored 8 of his 9 points in the third and Greivis Vasquez added 7 of his 18 in that third quarter.
The Timberwolves scored just 15 in that third quarter, but followed it up with a 31-point fourth quarter, unfortunately the Hornets scored 34 points of their own in that final quarter and what was once an 18-point TWolves lead resulted, ultimately in a 12-point Hornets win.
Let's take a look at tonight's top performers...
Luke Ridnour had a solid game on the offensive end, however he was exposed on the defensive end as Vasquez absolutely tore up Minnesota's D with his slashing to the rim and his kick out passes. Luke has definitely struggled shooting the ball as of late and hopefully tonight's 20-point game in which he shot 50% from the field will be a turning point for Luke offensively.
Nikola Pekovic started off hot with 10 points in that first quarter, however he only ended up playing 29 minutes in the loss. Since straining his hip he's seen less minutes than he's accustomed to play this season. You've got to think that it's still bothering him and has led to him playing less minutes the past few games. It's unfortunate he didn't see the court more as he clearly gave the Wolves a BIG advantage in the paint.
Kirlenko had a good game statistically, however watching the game he didn't quite look himself out there. He did finish with 2 steals and 1 block, however he looked a step slow defensively and made a number of questionable plays with some bad passes and bad shot attempts.
The three above players continue to produce offensively, but the Wolves need more input from guys like Derrick Williams, Alexey Shved and a healthy J.J. Barea would REALLY help! Getting Rubio on the court more (no minute limitation) will be key too.
In the preview I talked about how Vasquez was a legitimate Most Improved Player of the Year candidate, after watching him tonight, if he continues this stellar play--should be taking home the hardware come April. The Wolves got Vasquez into foul trouble early and he had to sit with two first quarter fouls. Prior to that he was making his way to the rim at will and making the Wolves' D look
B-A-D. After sitting early with those fouls, Greivis returned in the second half where he scored 12 of his 18 points, picking up right where he left off.
Last year's MIP Ryan Anderson is coming off the bench in New Orleans, playing behind #1 pick Anthony Davis. Anderson is certainly an impressive player and one of the NBA's best big man three-point shooters.
Jason Smith is another big that comes off the bench and he's another big that made the Wolves' D look foolish. Smith put on a mid-range shooting clinic that the Wolves had no hope of slowing down. He finished the night with just one miss in 8 tries and 14 points (12 of which came in the fourth quarter, with the game still 'up for grabs').
MISC. STATS: Dante Cunningham tied a season-high with his two made free throws.....Andrei Kirilenko's 8 free throws made and 10 free throw attempts are both new season-highs.....Luke Ridnour scored a season-high 20 points.....Ricky Rubio tied a season-high with his 22 minutes played.....Alexey Shved tied a season-high for the tenth time with his two steals tonight.....Greg Stiemsma's 2 offensive rebounds ties a season-high.....
KEY STATS: Minnesota shot the ball pretty well from the field and did a good job of getting to the free throw line, however that's where the compliments stop. They allowed the Hornets a lot of easy buckets that resulted in a shooting percentage over 50% from the field. The Hornets also held a +13 advantage on the boards (against a Top-5 rebounding team), a +8 in points in the paint and got 45 points from their full bench, compared to a Wolves team with just four players and 14 points.
MISC. STATS: The Wolves' 6 offensive rebounds and 25 defensive rebounds are both the second-lowest marks of the season, Minny's 31 total rebounds is a new season-low and their 13 fouls ties the second-lowest mark this season.....The Hornets' 44 field goals made and 29 assists are both tied as the second-highest totals for a Wolves opponent this season.....New Orleans' 9 free throw attempts and 3 blocks are both tied for the second-lowest totals (for a Wolves opponent) this season.....
That's all for now, the Wolves will be back in action on Sunday in San Antonio vs. the Spurs. Thanks for reading HOWL and GO WOLVES!
Cody D. Anderson
A Wolves fan bringing you Gameday Recaps all season long!