The Minnesota Timberwolves looked to snap a 6 game losing streak on their 3rd game in 4 nights as they hosted the New Orleans Hornets. The Hornets were looking to stop a 3 game skid of their own, as they were on their 5th game of a 5 game road trip.
The Wolves entered their 2nd game in a row where Rick Adelman had 12 men available to him, while the Hornets were without Eric Gordon, who isn’t playing on the 2nd night in back to backs. The Hornets played in Denver last night, while the Wolves were also on the back end of a back to back as they hosted the Lakers on Friday night.
The Wolves started with a lineup of Nikola Pekovic, Derrick Williams, Andrei Kirilenko, Luke Ridnour and Ricky Rubio, and the Hornets countered with Robin Lopez, Anthony Davis, Al-Farouq Aminu, Roger Mason Jr. and Greivis Vasquez.
The Wolves were much more aggressive to start the game, especially Ricky. He was attacking the basket much more than he has been since his return from surgery. The Wolves were also much more aggressive on the defensive end of the floor, not so much aggressive as they were active on defense. They were swiping at balls and forcing tipped balls and turnovers, those turnovers were leading to easy transition baskets. The ball movement by the Wolves was also very impressive to start the contest. The Wolves have started games all season with great ball movement, the key would be if the ball movement would last throughout the game. The Wolves were able to score on the opening possession of the game, and contained the lead all throughout the 1st quarter, and ending the opening period with a 33-14 lead. 4 of the 5 Wolves starters had a steal and the team was shooting 75% overall from the field. The Wolves also had 6 assists on 12 made field goals. One of the best signs for the Wolves in the 1st quarter, was Ricky going 3-3 for 7 points and 3 assists and only 1 turnover. Two of Ricky’s assists were well placed lob passes to both AK and Pek. Ricky showed he may be getting over whatever hurdle was holding him back after his knee surgery.
The Wolves went to the bench in the 2nd quarter, and the bench was producing the same results as the starters did. The bench continued to force turnovers and convert in transition. The Wolves went to the zone defense that was so successful against the Lakers on Friday night. The zone was getting the best of the Hornets. With 8:39 remaining in the half, the Wolves had the Hornets more than doubled up with a score of 43-19. The Wolves defense was in prime form on Saturday night, as they held the Hornets to 30% shooting in the opening half of play, while knocking down shots at a 61% rate. All of the made shots got the Timberwolves out to a 58–39 halftime lead.
The 3 point shooting woes continued for the Wolves as they were 2-8, but held the Hornets to 1-6 shooting from beyond the arc. The Wolves were rebounding the ball well, moving the ball very well and were converting on turnovers. Add all of that together and it equaled a very large 27 point halftime lead. The Wolves made great adjustments in the opening half, they guarded Vasquez completely differently than they did in the last meeting. They put a larger player on him, sometimes even Dante Cunningham which wasn’t allowing him to back down the smaller defender like the last contest. This defensive strategy was working. That and the fact Austin Rivers wasn’t hitting everything he threw up like in the last meeting for these 2 teams.
The Wolves and Hornets both started the 2nd half with the same 5 that started the game. The Wolves also started the 2nd half the same way they started the game, great defense and converting on the offensive end. With 7:45 to play in the 3rd quarter the Wolves had 10 turnovers, but the Hornets were only able to convert those turnovers for 2 points. Even committing 5 turnovers in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd for the Wolves, they still managed to keep a 26 point lead. The Wolves defense continued to be relentless in the 2nd half, just as in the 1st. They had forced the Hornets into 18 turnovers with 4:54 to play in the 3rd. The Hornets were still shooting 34% and trailed the Wolves 67-43. Ricky was a completely different player against the Hornets, this is the Ricky that was on the floor last year until the season ending knee injury. Ricky had 9 points on 3-5 shooting, 7 assists and 1 turnover for a +10 in 21:49 of action. The ball movement that was so prevalent in the 1st half, continued in the 3rd quarter. The Wolves had 22 assists on 32 field goals. The Wolves also continued with the same defensive pressure as they forced 20 turnovers through 3 quarters of play and held the Hornets to 37% shooting, while they continued to shot 55%. The Wolves bench was outscoring the hornets 32 – 25, and held an 81-55 lead entering the 4th and final quarter.
The Wolves bench continued to look strong as the 4th quarter got underway. The bench opened up a 33 point lead with 7:59. Lou Amundson checked into the game for the first time of the night at the 7:59 mark also. The bench was huge for the Wolves on Saturday night, and with such a large lead it gave the starters some rest. With 3 games in 4 nights, and 3 more over the next 5, the rest was greatly needed for a group that has already had to play so many minutes. This was also a great win for the Wolves, as it was more of an exclamation point type win to break out of the 6 game skid. The Wolves had every dressed player record a basket and cruised to an easy 115-86 win to improve to 18-26 on the season.
Ricky Rubio was terrific on Saturday night, his stat line was OK, but his effort, energy and intensity seemed to be at the same level we saw last season before the injury.
The ball movement was impressive tonight for the Wolves. It wasn’t just in the 1st half like we’ve seen so many times this season, it was for all 4 quarters. They ended up with 30 assists on 45 field goals.
The Wolves forced the Hornets into 23 total turnovers for the game, and the Wolves defense had 12 steals on the night.
The Wolves out rebounded the Hornets 44-28 on the night with 15 of those rebounds being offensive.
Kirilenko had the most minutes of any TWolve with 26:32. This game gave players a much needed rest and didn’t force any 1 player into playing a lot of minutes.
Dante Cunningham finished the game with a +27 going 9-9 for 18 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 1 turnover.
The Wolves will continue the home stand as they host the Blazers with a 7 pm tip on Monday.