Third Quarter Synergy Lifts Wolves Past Bobcats, 102-90

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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There was a span of four minutes during the final stages of Wednesday’s third quarter against Charlotte when the Timberwolves showed all the little things that have made them a difficult team to beat through the first half of the season.

The Wolves pushed the ball, using a combination of their guards to drive to the lane and score. They turned blocked shots on the defensive end into transition baskets. And they used a bruising inside game to snatch loose offensive rebounds and collect put-back points.

In those four minutes, Minnesota turned a tie game against the 3-26 Bobcats into what would become a 102-90 rout at Target Center. The Wolves snapped their four-game losing streak with an authoritative second half, one that the team hopes will carry over into a grueling four-game stretch heading into the All-Star Break.

But if there’s a case study to follow moving forward, the Wolves showed it in that 10-0 run to end the third.

“The fluidity of our offense was incredible,” guard Martell Webster said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of holding the ball. There was a lot of passing and moving and reacting.”

Minnesota had 26 assists—a season best—and just 13 turnovers on Wednesday, a vast change from the previous four contests. Much of that was due to the team’s guard play—the combination of Ricky Rubio, Luke Ridnour and JJ Barea were in control when they handled the ball against the Bobcats, allowing the Wolves to set up their offense and avoiding unnecessary turnovers.

That paved the way for monster inside games from forward Kevin Love and center Nikola Pekovic. Love assaulted Charlotte’s front court, scoring 30 points and adding 18 rebounds in the game. Pekovic complemented him nicely, adding 21 points and 11 rebounds. Charlotte’s combination of bigs had no answer for the Wolves’ duo near the basket.

Love attacked inside, particularly early in the game when the Bobcats jumped out to an early 15-6 first quarter lead. He had 18 points and 10 rebounds by halftime, and in the third he hit a pair of 3-pointers in the span of a minute, turning a tie game into a 56-53 lead.

Combined, Love and Pekovic had nine of the team’s 11 offensive rebounds.

“Those guys are playing great,” Ridnour said. “They’re just opening up the court for everyone else. When they can play like that and we can chip in, that makes us a pretty good team.”

The Wolves and Bobcats were tied 62-62 with 4:34 remaining in the third quarter when Minnesota put it all together. Over the next four minutes, the Wolves shot 6-of-7 from the floor while outscoring Charlotte 14-4—including a 10-0 surge to end the quarter.

After a Pekovic basket, Rubio put together a driving lay-up, then knocked down a 20-foot jumper while drawing a foul to give Minnesota a 69-66 lead. After Ridnour blocked Kemba Walker on the defensive end, Webster hit a running bank shot to extend the lead to five. Barea hit a 3-pointer and Webster drove for a lay-up to end the surge, putting Minnesota in the lead for good.

“We knew if we could go on one of our runs, they weren’t going to be able to fight back and get a win against us,” Love said. “We were happy to get this one, and we surely needed it.”

The Wolves ballooned that lead to 89-70 five minutes into the fourth. Coach Rick Adelman said heading into the fourth the team talked about continuing that intensity.

“We talked about it at the end of the quarter that we needed to build on that,” Adelman said. “We can’t go backwards again. We had gotten a six point lead and they came right back at us. It was nice to see us open it up.”

Barea finished the game with 12 points and eight assists, Rubio finished with six points and seven assists and Ridnour had 10 points and five assists. Webster had six points and five rebounds, and Wes Johnson had nine points on 4-of-9 shooting.

The Bobcats picked up 21 points from Walker, 18 points from Corey Maggette and 14 points from Boris Diaw. Reggie Williams had 10 points.

Charlotte dropped its 16th straight game, while Minnesota picked up its first win since Feb. 7 against Sacramento. The victory gives the Wolves a much needed boost before heading to Houston on Friday for their final game of the regular season against the Rockets.

Webster said Wednesday’s win was the type of performance the team needed. Now it’s time to build off that heading into the final four tilts before All-Star Weekend.

“A lot of things we can build off of in the second half, and the first half,” Webster said. “Taking care of the ball is one of our biggest focal points. I think we did a nice job of that tonight.”

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