Minnesota welcomed an injury-riddled Lakers squad Tuesday night, and the Wolves rolled over LA in a 109-99 final score. Minny had a huge first half and then struggled a bit to land its shots in the third quarter. The team hung on, though, and pulled out the win in the end. The Wolves have now won six of their last nine games, and last night’s “W” brings the team back to .500 and two spots out of the current playoff race. Kevin Martin led the evening with 32 points, followed closely by Kevin Love with 31.
Martin and Love proved unstoppable from the beginning, scoring 14 and 11 points, respectively, in the first period. Everyone hit their shots, and the team kept up a fast pace that kept LA from finding its groove.
Ronny Turiaf filled in for the injured Nikola Pekovic. Although Turiaf isn’t a top scorer in the game, the big man created a spark on defense that Minnesota needed. Turiaf added five rebounds and two blocked shots on the evening, and his single bucket came off a powerful slam dunk at the 6:18 mark of the first quarter.
The Timberwolves scored 38 points in the first quarter, and the second quarter went just as smoothly. The Lakers were completely disorganized in the first half, suffering from an injury bug the Wolves have experienced themselves. LA took the floor without Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol or Jordan Farmer, and Jodie Meeks went down early in the game with an ankle injury. The Lakers did, however, welcome back veteran point guard Steve Nash, who has played only six games this season with a back injury.
“I feel a bit selfish in that we lost, but it felt great just to play in the NBA again,” Nash said post-game. “Obviously the game didn’t go as we hoped, but for me personally that’s pretty cool to be back out there.” Nash finished the game with seven points and nine assists.
After going into halftime with a 68-52 lead, the Wolves found themselves floundering in the third quarter. A couple missed shots gave the Lakers a chance to come back, and LA quickly cut the deficit to eight. Despite missing so many players, LA’s reserves proved an athletic bunch that worked to tire the Wolves starting lineup. Minnesota refused to give up the lead, however, and never allowed its opponents to get closer than six points behind.
“It seems like the game is never going to be as easy as you like it, so you just have to persevere,” head coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s a scrappy team. I’ve looked at their games recently [...]. They don’t go away.”
The “Kevins” weren’t the only ones scoring, as a few role players made a significant impact in the win. Corey Brewer had a strong with 11 points and three steals. JJ Barea also came up big, driving for a couple key layups in the third quarter and tallying 11 points on the evening.
Overall, Minnesota shot 44.6 percent from the field to LA’s 41.8 percent. Perhaps the team’s most impressive stat, the Wolves went 47 percent from downtown, knocking down eight three-point shots. Martin claimed four of the long balls, and Love had two.
Love’s performance marked his 25th game with 30+ points, which broke the record previously held by Kevin Garnett. It was fitting for Love to break KG’s record in this game, as it was an especially physical one for the power forward. Love took several bumps and bruises en route to this 31 points, including a play in the fourth quarter in which he took a frightening fall. As Love drove to the basket and went up for a shot, Robert Sacre hit him hard, knocking his legs out from under him midair. The forward crashed to the floor, his head audibly connecting with the hardwood. The All-Star stayed down for a few minutes but ultimately came back to finish leading his team to victory.
“I got real bad whiplash,” Love said after the game. “I haven’t seen the play, but it felt like my head snapped back pretty good and hit the floor [...]. I’ve taken a few shots here and there, but I just wanted to stay in the game.”
“[Kevin] has incredible toughness,” said Martin. “That’s why we pay him the big bucks. That’s why he’s an All-Star starter.”
The Wolves schedule won’t let up much, as they head to OKC to take on the Thunder Wednesday evening and then on to New Orleans for a Friday night game. Saturday, the Timberwolves will be back at the Target Center to welcome Portland for a 7 p.m. matchup.
Target Center fans received an entertaining halftime show Tuesday night. Tag Team was in the house, and the hip-hop duo rolled out their classic hit, “Whoomp! (There it Is).”