Wolves Rout Wizards, 120-98
Minnesota saw firsthand what can happen when a team lets the Wizards run and get multiple opportunities in a possession. It happened on Nov. 19 in D.C., and the Wolves wanted no part in recreating that scene on Friday at Target Center.
So they did something about it. Minnesota protected the basketball, controlled the boards and never let the Wizards get out in transition during a 120-98 rout. The victory pulls the Timberwolves to within a game of .500 and within two games of the eight seed in the West with three of their next four coming at home.
Wolves vs. Wizards
This win was about redemption, and it was about getting back on track. After two tough losses in Los Angeles last weekend, Minnesota knew the importance of coming out strong on its home court and taking care of business against a Wizards team slowly but surely moving up the Eastern Conference standings. After a rocky first quarter in which the Wolves shot 28 percent from the field, it was no turning back over the final 36 minutes. Using a spark from their bench, the Wolves controlled the pace and never had a fall off from their starters’ productivity.
Seven Wolves scored in double figures on this night, including all five starters. But J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved kept the production going with the second unit as they combined for 30 total points on 11-of-17 shooting and got shots to fall when it mattered most. Barea’s pair of baskets 24 seconds apart early in the second set the tone and put the Wolves ahead for good. Neither the starters nor the reserves let up as they pushed the lead to as many as 24 in the third quarter.
“I liked the way they played on both ends of the court, too,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We’ve got to get something going when those guys come in. You can’t go backwards, and they were able to come in in the fourth quarter and open it back up again. They did the same thing in the second quarter, too.”
The Wizards were 10-6 since that Nov. 19 win over Minnesota, putting together wins through strong defense and transitional play. Neither worked on Friday. Washington gave up a season-high 120 points and allowed Minnesota to shoot 60.9 percent from the field in the second quarter and 70.6 percent in the fourth.
They sent Minnesota to the line 38 times and forced just four turnovers on the night. That latter was a big indicator why Washington wasn’t able to capitalize on fast-break points. During that first meeting in November, the Wizards held a 33-9 advantage in that category. On Friday, Minnesota edged Washington 18-16.
On top of that, Minnesota snatched up 14 offensive rebounds and held a 44-35 advantage on the glass—led by Love’s 11 and Pekovic’s 10 (Pek had six of those 14 offensive boards). That ensured the Wizards rarely got multiple opportunities on a single offensive possession, and Minnesota controlled a 16-7 second-chance points advantage.
That’s saying something when you’re dealing with Marcin Gortat and Nene on the same roster—sometimes on the court at the same time.
“They’re two big guys,” Adelman said. “And they both do a good job, but tonight I thought we got a lot of shot attempts up and we got a lot of free throws. That keeps them in the half court, too. That keeps them from running on us.”
The Wolves stressed getting off to a strong start at home against the Wizards knowing this is a point in their season where they can try to make a move in the standings. This was a big first step in that direction. Wolves forward Kevin Love, who led the team with 25 points and 11 rebounds, said it was a good effort responding from those Los Angeles losses over the weekend.
He set the tone, but his teammates helped carry the load. Pekovic finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, Martin had 12 points, Rubio had 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds and Corey Brewer had 10.
Barea added 17 on 8-of-10 shooting, while Shved had 13—including a pair if 3-pointers.
Meanwhile, Minnesota found a way to lock down John Wall for the final three quarters. After scoring 22 points in the first, Wall managed just four the rest of the way.
“We switched up a couple different defensive matchups on him,” Love said. “He was sitting on 22 for a while. He’s a very good player, and for us to be able to slow him down and slow [Bradley] Beal down too was big for us and key for the win.”
Wolves vs. Wizards
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Beal finished with 14 points but left the game late with an apparent leg injury. Trevor Booker and Trevor Ariza each had 10 points, while Nene had 13 and Martell Webster had 11 off the bench.
Leader of the Pack: Kevin Love
It’s a continuing trend, I know, but Kevin Love once again led the way for the Wolves and really set the tone for this Wolves team throughout the contest. He notched his 26th double-double in 28 games this season with 25 points and 11 rebounds. Love has recorded at least 10 rebounds or scored at least 30 points in all 28 games he’s played in this season, the longest streak to start an NBA season since Bill Walton did it 34 straight times for Portland in the 1976-77 season. He continues to do things the NBA hasn’t seen in quite some time.
Highlight of the Night
Tonight’s game was not filled with highlight-reel plays, but the biggest series of events probably took place courtesy of J.J. Barea on consecutive possessions early in the second. With the Wolves down by two at 25-23, Barea drove to the basket and knotted up the score. After a bad pass by Garrett Temple, Barea hit a 20-foot jumper 24 seconds later to put the Wolves up two. Minnesota never trailed again, ballooning its lead to 14 by halftime and to as many as 20 in the second half.
The Numbers Game
Quote of the Night
“Yeah, I was so mad so I went for the rebounds, but I mean it didn’t work because I didn’t get my double-double.” — Ricky Rubio, joking when asked if he was trying to take Love’s rebounds since Love has been compiling a career-high in assists this year
The Wolves will hop on a plane right after the game tonight and head to Milwaukee to take on the Bucks on Saturday night. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM at the BMO Harris Bradley Center. Fear not: The Bucks are also playing back-to-backs as they took on the Nets. After the quick road trip, Minnesota will return home to face the Mavericks on Dec. 30, the Pelicans on Jan. 1 and the Thunder on Jan. 4.