Timberwolves past Bobcats 119-92
By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Nikola Pekovic scored 26 points in 27 minutes, and the Minnesota Timberwolves blew off some steam with a 119-92 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.
Kevin Love had 19 points and 14 rebounds, Kevin Martin added 19 points and Minnesota's bench had 20 points before Charlotte's even got on the board late in the second quarter. Pekovic went 10 for 14 from the field and 6 for 6 from the free-throw line, finishing with 15 points in the third period alone.
Anthony Tolliver led the Bobcats with 21 points on 5-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, and Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 16 points. Al Jefferson came up with only eight points and seven rebounds, though, and the Timberwolves held a 54-33 rebounding edge to send the Bobcats to their seventh loss in the last eight games.
The Timberwolves lost on Wednesday in the last seconds again, 104-103 to Phoenix to fall to 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer. Then the tension lingered into the locker room where Love, who was critical recently of a particularly paltry output by the reserves, ripped J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham for their disinterested body language at the end of the bench.
By midway through the second quarter, though, all the frustration had faded away for the night.
Love set the tone with a commanding start, posting his league-leading 31st double-double before halftime. Then the backups backed him up, putting together one of their sharpest stretches of the season. With Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf finally healthy, the second unit is much stronger now.
The Wolves outscored the Bobcats 39-20 in that quarter, and the bench did most of the work. The highlight came when Cunningham blocked Kemba Walker's fast-break layup, Barea grabbed the ball, and Shved caught his outlet pass for an uncontested dunk for a 45-34 lead. That came near the end of a 20-6 run by the Wolves.
Pekovic picked up his team after that and put it on his sturdy back, doing whatever he wanted to in the paint in the third period against Jefferson and Josh McRoberts. The 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic scored 13 straight points for the Wolves in one spurt, and Martin followed with a layup to push the lead to a game-high 88-57.
The Bobcats (15-22) entered the game still above the cut in the Eastern playoff chase, seeking just the second appearance in the franchise's 10 seasons. Too many more performances like this, though, and they'll have a hard time keeping up even in the far weaker of the two conferences.
Walker, who averaged 22 points over his first four career games against the Wolves, was relatively quiet with 15 points. Jefferson was even more of a nonfactor, finishing 3 for 9 from the floor.
For a team that went an NBA-worst 28-120 over the last two seasons, there has been clear progress under first-year coach Steve Clifford. But the Bobcats, who had allowed the second-fewest points in the league entering the night, have taken a step back on defense lately.
They ought to get a boost next week when Michael Kidd-Gilchrist comes back. He missed his 18th straight game because of a broken left hand, but Clifford said the plan is for him to practice on Monday and play on Tuesday against New York.
Jefferson wasn't the only former Timberwolves player the Bobcats brought. Tolliver, who spent two seasons here from 2010-12, went 8 for 9 from the field.
NOTES: This was the first time in nearly two years the Wolves had no injured players on the roster. Luc Mbah a Moute returned from a three-game absence due to a strained left groin and played in the fourth quarter. ... The Bobcats fell to 3-11 against Western Conference teams this season.