Wolves Lead Wire To Wire In 94-87 Win Over 76ers
Maybe all Minnesota needed was a little rest and relaxation.
A full week removed from their last regular-season contest, the Timberwolves jumped out early and came away with a 94-87 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night, completing their 3-game season sweep.
“We had the lead pretty much the whole game, and it was good to get the win,” Derrick Williams said. “They made a little push towards the end, but we played great defense.”
Wolves vs 76ers
Andrei Kirilenko got things started quickly, as the forward scored in the game’s first four seconds after missing the last five games a quad injury. The Wolves put together a season-high 35-point first quarter, shooting 59 percent from the field and getting to the free throw line 10 times, making seven. Ricky Rubio also notched his 500th career assist during that span.
The Wolves cooled a bit in the next quarter from the field, but the Sixers shot poorly enough (33 percent) for them to run the lead to as much as 19. Minnesota put together a 13-2 run to help its cause, and Pekovic had already reached a double-double before half, his 20th of the season.
Philadelphia eventually cracked the 10-point barrier after the halftime break with the help of a 14-point third quarter effort from Evan Turner. But going into the fourth, Kirilenko adjusted and only allowed a single point from Turner for the rest of the game.
“I was always starting on [Turner], then we switched,” Kirilenko said. “He got the position on a smaller or bigger guy and got the advantage. Finally we stopped switching and I think it helped, he stopped making shots.”
The Sixers crept within four points in the final quarter, but the Wolves nailed 16 free throws to hold on for the win. Minnesota struggled mightily from the field, shooting just 1-for-12, but the success from the line and defense when it counted most gave them the win.
Nikola Pekovic was highly productive for Minnesota, collecting 27 points and 18 rebounds for yet another double-double. Andrei Kirilenko was back to his usual, well-rounded self and tallied 15 points, five rebounds, five assists, two steals and three blocks, good for his third 15x5x5 game of the season.
"They got very physical in the second half on the ball too,” coach Rick Adelman said. “You have to play through it. Pek worked really hard, he got seven offensive rebounds. He was always around the basket, which is what we needed."
Turner led Philly with 17 points, and Jrue Holiday added another 16 along with five assists. Spencer Hawes had a team-high eight boards for the Sixers, who were outrebounded 39-51. Dorell Wright and Damien Wilkins combined for 23 points off the bench.
Leader of the Pack: Nikola Pekovic
In a night where the bench hardly played, Pekovic logged 42 minutes and produced 27 points with 18 rebounds. He shot 9-of-16 from the field in recording his 20th double-double of the season, and his 18 boards matches a career high. He also converted 9-for-15 from the free throw line.
“Big credit to Pek,” Williams said. “He played like a monster tonight. He has been playing like that all season. He knocked down his free throws tonight, and I think we all just followed his lead.”
Play of the Game
In the first quarter, Ricky Rubio took a steal from Jrue Holiday and got it up to Luke Ridnour, who ran the sideline and stopped at the 3-point line. He then passed it inside the paint to Derrick Williams who initially fumbled the pass but gathered and finished with a two-handed slam. The basket put the Wolves up, 26-18.
“The good thing is that finally we can finish a game. That’s a good sign. Starting the second half of the season with a win is important. We have a pretty tough schedule coming, and we have to be ready right now mentally and physically.”—Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko
The Wolves will go to Oklahoma City to face the Thunder on Friday, then return home to host Golden State on a rare Sunday afternoon matchup.