The Timberwolves ended a 2-game losing skid tonight, handily beating the Washington Wizards 120-98 at the Target Center.
While Kevin Love displayed dominance throughout the evening, it was the bench that got the Wolves going in the second quarter that gave them a lead the Wizards were never able to mount a comeback from.
"It makes things a lot easier," Rick Adelman said of his bench following the game. "I liked the way they played on both ends of the court, too. We've gotta get something going when those guys come in, you can't go backwards. They were able to come in in the fourth quarter and open it back up again, they did the same in the second quarter."
It was a back-and-forth start for the Wolves, only because Kevin Love kept Minnesota in the game early. He had 13 points on 4/8 shooting and 7 rebounds in the first quarter, going 5/5 from the charity stripe. The rest of the team shot 3/17 in the quarter, forcing Love to carry the scoring load in the game's opening stages.
The second quarter featured the aforementioned play by the Wolves' bench, with J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham leading the way. This was also this quarter where Nikola Pekovic really started to get it going in the scoring column. It wasn't just Pek, though. The entire Wolves team seemed to gel as the first half came to a close. They had one of their best quarters so far this season, scoring 39 and entering the locker room with a 61-47 lead to end the half.
The last time Minnesota played Washington, they lost a lead in the second half, as Eric mentioned in today's game preview, with transition defense being a glaring issue. Tonight, they were able to maintain a comfortable lead and run away with the victory.
As mentioned, was a game dominated by Kevin Love, who finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 32 minutes of action. Still, Ricky Rubio put together what nearly became his 2nd triple double of the season, in relatively quiet fashion. Rubio finished the night with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists in only 26 minutes. He had a great chance of completing the feat, but Minnesota's large lead allowed coach Adelman to sit Rubio for the entirety of the fourth quarter.
Rubio helped Love in the scoring column more than he usually does, but it was Nikola Pekovic who finished the game second in scoring with 18 and 10 boards. His shot wasn't dropping early, but he continued his impressive work on the offensive glass (6 offensive boards tonight) and allowed his game to come to him.
Kevin Martin has been in a funk, and has tried to shoot his way back into a groove in stretches. It was a tale of two halves for him tonight, going 2/8 for 5 points in the first, and 3/4 for 7 points in the second half.
Off the bench, Dante Cunningham (6 points and 4 steals), Alexey Shved (13 points and 4 assists), and J.J. Barea (17 points and 4 assists) all had good moments and important contributions towards tonight's win.
John Wall was, not surprisngly, Washington's best player on the floor for most of the game. He had 27 points on 11/20 shooting, to go along with 7 assists in 36 minutes. Bradley Beal had 14 points and left the game with what looked like a bad knee injury. Michael Lee of the Washington Post had the first report:
Bradley Beal walked out on his own power, no crutches: "The X-ray was pretty positive – it was negative, my bad. It was negative." #wizards— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) December 28, 2013
That is good news, hopefully more is to follow.
Three key stats to take away from tonight:
- Four turnovers for the Wolves for the entire game
- 31/38 night from the free throw line.
- Only 16 fast break points allowed.
All three of these would be very nice to see consistently, at least to an extent. The ball control, naturally, came from great ball movement, something Rick Adelman wants to see more of.
"We don't have guys who can break you down off the dribble, we don't have somebody like that," Adelman said. "So the ball has got to move as a group, and that's how we're going to be effective."
The Wolves took advantage of a winnable game tonight, but now the trick will be to build off of this win and put together a winning streak, preferably longer than two games. This stretch of games gives the Wolves a great chance to do that.
The 14-15 Wolves will now head to Milwaukee, where they will face the 6-22 Bucks tomorrow night. The game will begin at 7:30 CST and will be broadcast on FS North.
From there, they have games against Dallas and New Orleans. All winnable games, the latter two direct competition in the race for a spot in the playoffs. Whether the Wolves play them as such remains to be seen.