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Wolves Struggle In Second Half, Fall To Hornets

Minnesota entered the matchup with the Charlotte Hornets fresh off a gritty victory over the New York Knicks. That win came after 12 days without a victory for the Wolves, and appeared to inject some life into a reeling squad.

It couldn’t keep the momentum rolling and fell 109-98 at the hands of the Hornets on Sunday night at Target Center.

“We just didn’t execute the way that we wanted to,” Chase Budinger said.

Minnesota didn’t seem to have an answer for the inside game from Al Jefferson of for the outside game from Kemba Walker and Mo Williams. Those weapons, coupled with the driving abilities of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Gerald Henderson, and the Wolves simply couldn’t keep up. Williams led Charlotte with a game-high 24 points off the bench on 10-for-16 shooting.

“He’s a professional scorer,” Zach LaVine said. “He’s been doing that for 11 years.”

That kind of outburst is something the Wolves grew especially familiar with this year. Minnesota traded Williams to Charlotte about a month-and-a-half ago and since then he’s helped keep that team in the playoff hunt.

Flip Saunders praised him before the game.

“He played like that for us,” Saunders said. “He had 52 for us in a game. He's a guy that when he gets it going he can really shoot.”

That was very much the case on Sunday. Jefferson chipped in with 18 points and 11 rebounds and Kidd-Gilchrist also scored 18 points and Henderson and Walker rounded out the double-digit scorers with 17 points and 16 points, respectively.

It wasn’t all bad for the Wolves, though.

Minnesota was rolling early on and when Budinger converted an and-one to give his team a 13-point lead with 1:52 remaining in the first half, it looked like the Hornets were on the ropes. That, unfortunately for the Wolves, was the last time they led by that many points.

Charlotte closed the half on an impressive 11-2 run to keep itself in the contest heading into the locker rooms. That momentum continued after halftime and the Hornets managed to build a lead thanks to a strong effort from across the board.

“We have the tendency when things get going and they make a couple buckets … to almost try a little bit too hard,” Saunders said.

Saunders added that run was a product of fatigue from some of the younger guys on the team.

“We’re tired,” he said. “I wish I could say we’ve got 19-year-olds that are used to playing so many games. We’re getting a little tired and we’re losing some of that concentration. You’ve only got so many timeouts to use.”

Charlotte didn’t look back from there.

Kevin Martin was a bright spot for Minnesota as he had 15 points and 9 assists and was active on the opposite side of the floor, too. Gorgui Dieng chipped in with 16 points and 8 boards, and while a number of other players also scored in double figures, it wasn’t enough for the Wolves to come out on the winning side of things.

“We’ve just got to move on and try to get better next game,” LaVine said.

Minnesota takes on the Utah Jazz on Monday night in Salt Lake City, Utah.

LEADER OF THE PACK

Gorgui Dieng has had a nice little stretch as of late and continued that success with a 16-point-8-rebound effort against the Hornets. Dieng was efficient as he finished 5-for-8 from the floor and a perfect 6-for-6 from the charity stripe.  “He's been good,” Saunders said. “He seems to be having pretty good energy here recently as far as how he's playing. He's been playing with a very good comfort level."

NUMBERS GAME 

  • Zach LaVine was feeling it early and scored 9 points in the first quarter on 4-for-7 shooting from the floor. He finished with 11 points in the game filling in for the injured Ricky Rubio.
  • A 10-0 run midway through the second quarter helped the Wolves take a impressive 42-31 lead over the Hornets. Lorenzo Brown’s three-pointer to cap the run prompted Steve Clifford to take an extended timeout.  
  •  Charlotte outscored Minnesota 28-19 in the third quarter to take an 82-78 lead heading into the final frame. It never looked back after that and coasted to the win.
  • Minnesota got a strong contribution from its group of reserves throughout the matchup and that contingent finished with 30 points and shot a combined 13-for-17 from the floor.
  • Mo Williams made a meaningful impact as soon as he stepped on the court for the Hornets and finished his night with 24 points off the bench. That’s something the Wolves grew accustom to this season when Williams was on the roster.

LOOKING AHEAD

Minnesota will board a plane en route to Utah on Sunday night in preparation for a game with the Utah Jazz on Monday night. That road trip won’t last too long, though, as the Wolves return home for a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.