WASHINGTON (AP) — Kevin Love looked as if he was headed for a big night against Washington. Instead, the Wizards kicked their defense up measurably and held the NBA’s third-leading scorer below his season average.
Love, who entered the game averaging 26.8 points, had 16 in the first quarter but only nine afterward as Washington broke its four-game losing streak with a 104-100 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday night.
“I thought he was going for 70 in the first eight minutes,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said.
Love, who made five of his first six shots, missed eight of his final 11 to finish with 25. He had 11 rebounds, also below his season average.
Bradley Beal scored 25 points, while John Wall added 14 points and tied his career high with 16 assists for Washington.
Martel Webster’s 3-pointer with 42 seconds to play gave the Wizards a 100-98 lead. Beal added two free throws with 12.9 seconds left to make it 102-98.
Webster had 17 points, including five 3-pointers.
Minnesota started furiously. A 13-2 first-quarter run put them up by 10, and Love had 16 points by the end of the quarter with the Timberwolves ahead 34-27.
Love played half the second quarter, missed his only shot, and had just one point, but Minnesota led 63-51 in the half.
“I thought when we came out to start the game, it was again lethargic. We weren’t dictating things defensively. We got upset at halftime and turned it on,” Wittman said.
Prior to Tuesday morning’s shootaround, the Wizards had a players-only meeting, one that Wittman feigned ignorance about before the game.
After the game, he joked that he liked the meeting’s result.
“After halftime I was going to have another one. I wasn’t going to go in there. I’ll do whatever it takes for a win, trust me,” Wittman said.
Besides holding Love down, Washington also stopped Kevin Martin, who was averaging 24.4 points. He was held to 11.
“We need everybody every night. We can’t usually get by if we have a couple guys with off games,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said.
Minnesota began a difficult stretch of five games in seven nights, its second of the season.
“Our transition D was poor,” Love said. “That’s the only way they scored the ball really. I thought we did a good job in the half court, but everyone knows, when that team gets out in transition they can be pretty good offensively.”
Beal scored 17 in the second half and his layup with 10:24 to play gave the Wizards an 86-85 lead. They held it until Martin’s two free throws tied it at 95 with 2:23 to play.
“In the first half, we were horrible. We weren’t there defensively. We were lackadaisical. We played with no energy,” Beal said.
Wall hit a jumper with 1:26 to play to give Washington a 97-95 lead, but Martin, who had missed 12 of his first 15 field goals, made a 3-pointer and Minnesota pulled ahead 98-97 with 1:11 remaining.
Minnesota had won seven of its first 11. Adelman, a veteran of 23 seasons as an NBA coach, cautioned his team.
“I keep telling them they haven’t done anything yet,” he said before the game.
In the second half, the Timberwolves shot just 34 percent and missed 10 of their 13 3-pointers.
“If you’re going to be somebody in the league, you have to be ready to win every night. I think we didn’t do it tonight in the second half and this kind of game is one of the games that you’re going to need,” Wolves guard Ricky Rubio said.
Rubio had three quick fouls in just seven first-half minutes and played just 19 minutes.
Wall had seven assists in the third quarter as the Wizards outscored the Timberwolves 30-18 to even the game at 81.
NOTES: Wittman was incensed about an early first-quarter foul on Beal, but held his emotions in check. After being fined for using profane language and being fined $20,000, Wittman is sensitive. “I ain’t gonna get in any more trouble,” he joked. . Washington F Al Harrington missed his third straight game with a right knee injury. . Wizards F Trevor Ariza missed his second game with a strained right hamstring. . Flip Saunders, who was fired as Washington’s coach in January 2012, returned to the arena in his new role as Minnesota’s president of basketball operations.