Notebook: Timberwolves 113, Hornets 102

Posted Dec 14, 2012 11:44 PM

By Bradley Handwerger

THE FACTS: The Minnesota Timberwolves used their size advantage in the frontcourt and scored nearly two-thirds of their points in the paint Friday night as they easily moved past the New Orleans Hornets 113-102.

Nikola Pekovic scored 31 points, including 24 inside of four feet from the basket, and Andrei Kirilenko added 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Timberwolves, who climbed to 11-9 on the season.

Their points more than made up for Kevin Love, who has been hampered by a hand injury. Love shot only 4 of 18 and finished with 14 points and nine rebounds.

Minnesota tried to play a transition game in the first half but went to the break tied at 50 with the undermanned Hornets, who were missing guard Eric Gordon and forward Jason Smith.

But in the second half, Minnesota made the decision to slow down and spread the floor. The result helped the Timberwolves set a season-high for points in the paint with 70.

The Hornets (5-17) kept pace in the first half thanks to Austin Rivers, who scored 19 of his career-high 27 points in the opening 24 minutes. In his third game back from an ankle injury, Anthony Davis scored 11 points, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked three shots.

QUOTABLE: "Our defense is not even close to what we are used to around here and that is a reflection of me and my coaching. I need to do a better job and get in there and figure out which guys are going to fight for this organization. That is not something that we are seeing on a consistent basis."
-- Hornets coach Monty Williams on giving up so many points in the paints.

THE STAT: A trio of numbers combine for this stat because they're all related. Minnesota scored 70 points in the paint against New Orleans. To get there, they outrebounded the Hornets 40-30, including 14 offensive rebounds. And that led to 24 second-chance points.

TURNING POINT: The Hornets kept pace with Minnesota for the first part of the third quarter.

But then Minnesota got going as the quarter began winding down. After New Orleans' Davis pulled the Hornets within 70-68, Minnesota went on a 12-5 run to close the quarter. It was a European explosion that put the Timberwolves over the top. Alexey Shved, from Russia, started the run with a 3-pointer, Pekovic of Montenegro scored the next five points, Russia's Kirilenko then hit a short jumper and Pekovic finished with a layup.

HOT: Pekovic and Kirilenko sank the Hornets. The eastern European duo combined to go 24 of 34 for 52 points. Without their full allotment of big men, the Hornets couldn't find a way to slow down the two, who combined for 24 points in the paint in the second half.

NOTABLE: Minnesota's Josh Howard hyperextended his right knee and didn't return to the game. ... The Timberwolves' Love jammed the thumb on his right hand. X-rays after the game were negative. ... The Timberwolves have set a season-high for points in back-to-back games. Friday night's 113 points bested Wednesday night's 108 against Denver. ... Hornets guard Greivis Vasquez set a career-high for assists with 17. He also scored 15 points. ... New Orleans shot a better percentage than Minnesota -- 53.8 percent to 53.4 -- and fell to 5-4 in games in which that has happened.

UP NEXT: For the Hornets, Sunday @ Portland, Tuesday @ Golden State, Wednesday @ Clippers. For the Timberwolves, Saturday vs. Dallas, Monday @ Orlando, Tuesday @ Miami.