Second Half Comeback Sends Hornets Past Timberwolves, 104-92
For 18 minutes it looked like Minnesota’s night. Shots were falling. The defense was producing stops. The formula that helped the Wolves put up 113 points in their last trip to New Orleans was working—pound the paint and feed center Nikola Pekovic.
But something changed midway through the second, and the Wolves simply couldn’t recover on Friday in a 104-92 loss to the suddenly hot Hornets. Over those final 30 minutes, just the opposite took place: The shots weren’t falling and stops weren’t coming.
“I think we jumped on them in the first half, and kind of woke them up a little bit,” Wolves forward Derrick Williams said.
Minnesota (16-17) was clicking offensively from the start, hitting on 55 percent of their shots and getting big contributions from Pekovic and guard Luke Ridnour. Pekovic scored the first six points of the game and was 4-of-6 from the field in the first quarter—seemingly on pace to have another big game like his 31 point-effort against the Hornets on Dec. 14.
Wolves at Hornets
He finished with 18 on the night and connected on 7-of-13 shots, but the Hornets found a way to mitigate his scoring though the final three quarters and it paid off for New Orleans.
“A couple times they doubled him in the second half, but again they just got more physical and we did a better job of having some patience and getting to our sweet spots,” coach Terry Porter said. “And then really trying to be aggressive and then giving the onus on the referees to get some calls in the post.”
In the second half, New Orleans (11-25) came alive.
The Hornets shot 27-of-47 in the second half and didn’t allow Minnesota to put groups of stops together. In the first half, the Wolves had a stretch of 11 consecutive defensive stops. In the final 24 minutes, New Orleans got to the rim and converted in the paint.
On the other end of the court, those easy baskets stopped coming.
“In the first quarter we were operating our offense so well—we got a lot of lay-ups, not the shots but the lay-ups,” forward Andrei Kirilenko said. “In the second half of the game, I don’t even think we had one easy lay-up. I think they covered it, and we stopped executing our offense.”
Point guard Greivis Vasquez put together a 16-assist night on Dec. 14, and he added 13 assists to go along with 18 points on Friday night. His play at the point helped open up options for the Hornets offensively, and they capitalized across the board. Shooting guard Eric Gordon scored 16 points, Ryan Anderson added 15 points off the bench and Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 points and 13 rebounds.
For the Timberwolves, Ridnour led the team with 20 points, Pekovic added 18 points and six rebounds and Andrei Kirilenko had 17 points and five rebounds. Forward Dante Cunningham had 12 points, and guard Alexey Shved had 11 points and seven assists.
Leader of the Pack: Luke Ridnour
On a night where the Wolves had trouble with their offensive rhythm in the final 36 minutes, Luke Ridnour continued to shine for most of the night. He finished with a team-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting, and he hit two of the team’s four 3-pointers on the night. He also added four assists and four rebounds. Ridnour has the ability to knock down open looks and spot up jumpers, and with two difficult road tests coming up in Texas to end the road trip Minnesota will need continued offensive production from Ridnour. He was also effective getting to the free-throw line, going 6-for-7 from the stripe on Friday.
Highlight of the Night
With the Hornets mounting a quick comeback to start the second half and having already tied the game up at 50-50, the Wolves got an offensive spark from power forward Dante Cunningham. Like he’s done throughout the year, Cunningham sprinted to the basket anticipating a rebound on a teammates’ shot and threw down an electric put-back slam that gave Minnesota back the lead at 52-50.
The Numbers Game
“We have to give them credit. They did bounce back. We were doing a pretty good job in the first quarter on defense…but they adjusted something on defense, they had easy baskets and we couldn’t stop it.” — Wolves guard Ricky Rubio on the Hornets’ second half comeback
The Timberwolves have an off day in San Antonio tomorrow where they will get one practice in, and then they’ll play a 6 p.m. game against the Spurs on Sunday night. They’ll wrap up the four-game road trip with a game in Dallas on Monday.
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