MINNEAPOLIS -- Holding a double-digit lead at halftime, Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman couldn't help but wonder if he was about to experience another collapse.
Like the game in Washington on Nov. 11. Or, more recently, a last-second giveaway in Los Angeles that led to an overtime loss to the Clippers -- which sent the Wolves into a "Bah, humbug!" Christmas break.
"I was concerned at halftime," Adelman said. "We were 14 points up. We have seen this before where they get a couple baskets, we start going one-on-one. We don't stay disciplined."
Well, the Wolves discovered this new approach called the foot-on-throat technique that fueled their 120-98 victory over the Washington Wizards on Friday night at Target Center. After shaking off an early deficit, the Wolves used defense, efficient offense and bench scoring to cruise to a win in front of an announced crowd of 16,473.
All five starters had scored in double figures by the third quarter. Kevin Love finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds -- a franchise record for consecutive games with at least 25 points. Nikola Pekovic had 18 and 10. Ricky Rubio had 11 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. And even J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved combined to score 30 off the bench as the Wolves defeated the Wizards for the fourth straight time at Target Center.
"We've struggled in third quarters, and I still thought we held the lead and managed to get it up heading into the fourth," Love said. "It was a good effort, especially after that L.A. trip that didn't go so well."
The Wolves talked before the game about not letting the Wizards get down the court and start flying to the basket. The backcourt combo of John Wall and Bradley Beal can cause havoc that way. And, despite falling behind 9-0 after the opening tip, the Wolves got back on defense for most of the game. After the Wizards' strong start, Love erupted for 11 straight points, and the Wolves were behind 23-22 after a quarter.
Wall scored 22 in the first half, but the Wolves were happy with letting him shoot jump shots because worse things happen when he can penetrate.
"He was going to make jumpers," Adelman said, "but we wanted to keep him from getting to the basket because not only does he get to the basket, he scores, but also finds all those three-point shooters. So it was really important that we got back, and our guys did a good job of following that."
Beal injured his left knee when he collided with Luc Mbah a Moute with 4:25 left in the game and was carried off the court.
The Wolves outscored Washington 39-24 in the second quarter. Wall was 0-for-4 in the third quarter, then Barea (11 points in the fourth quarter) and Shved (seven) helped close out the game in the fourth.
"No defense," Wall said of the Wizards' effort. "Basically, they got to do whatever they wanted."
Correct. For the first time in franchise history, no Wolves starter committed a turnover. When you protect the ball and protect the basket like the Wolves did on Friday, it's hard not to win.
After distancing themselves from the aggravating loss to the Clippers, the Wolves headed to Milwaukee with a chance to win both ends of a back-to-back weekend.
"It was a real solid win for us," Adelman said. "We wanted to keep them out of the break and we kept them in the half court most of the time."
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