Timberwolves take over in fourth quarter to put away Charlotte
Andrew Wiggins was driving to the hoop and in one memorable instance Wednesday, flying to the hoop. Karl-Anthony Towns, meanwhile, was draining 3-pointers, taking defenders off the dribble and blocking shots on the other end.
The Timberwolves werent perfect in their 121-104 victory over the Hornets, but Towns and Wiggins made sure they had enough in the tank to close out this four-game homestand on a positive note.
Towns made an impact at both ends of the floor, scoring 35 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking six shots while Wiggins brought the Wolves back from a 15-point first-half deficit with 26 points (16 in the first half), six rebounds and five assists. The Wolves came on strong when it mattered most in outscoring Charlotte 35-18 in the fourth quarter while keeping Charlottes top offensive threat Kemba Walker in check as Walker scored 15 points on just 6-for-16 shooting. Jeff Teague added a career high 18 assists.
The Wolves came out with the idea to attack the Hornets inside, running the offense through Towns and Taj Gibson. Gibson chipping in seven easy points while Towns found room to operate in scoring nine points within the first six minutes of the game. Towns nailed his first two 3-point attempts of the night as the Wolves opened a six-point lead.
But the defensive effort wasnt there for the Wolves early, and Charlotte was able to slice through for easy baskets while hitting 4 of their first 5 3-pointers.
Walker scored 11 points in the first quarter as the Hornets led by as many as six, although the Wolves bench was able to tie the score 31-31 by the end of the quarter.
Not much went right for the Wolves in the second quarter, however. Their vaunted second unit couldnt build on the momentum it had gained toward the end of the first quarter and quickly fell behind. Frank Kaminsky buried a pair of 3s to set the tone for the early part of the quarter. Charlotte scored 20 of the first 26 points in the quarter to open up a 51-37 lead.
The Wolves looked ambivalent until Wiggins took the floor again. Each of the last two games, Wiggins, often criticized for looking disengaged and uninspired, was the one keeping the Wolves afloat amid first-half deficits.
The play that lit the fire was Wiggins at his best when he used his athleticism to leap over multiple people in the paint for a putback slam that got Target Center on its feet and social media to take notice.
Wiggins slam pulled the Wolves within 57-47 and after he hit a mid-range jumper, he hit another layup as he was fouled. He would miss the free throw but then ball deflected out to Towns, who buried a 3 to complete a rare five-point possession. The Wolves fed off Wiggins energy to tie the score and stay within 64-62 at the half.
The Wolves kept the good vibes going into the third quarter and had an early four-point lead as Thibodeau leaned on his starters for most of the quarter. He didnt make his first substitutions until 1:44 was left in the quarter and the Wolves had relinquished their lead. Through three quarters, Towns and Wiggins combined for 43 of the Wolves 86 points while Jeff Teague had 12 assists on the Wolves 35 made field goals up to that point.
The bench took the floor to start the fourth quarter and after a few possessions that were messy offensively, Thibodeau had a quick hook and brought Towns and Teague back in with a little over eight minutes remaining and the Wolves down 96-93.
Towns responded with seven straight points to put the Wolves back on top by two and Robert Covington got going, scoring eight of his 17 points in the fourth to keep the good vibes going for the Wolves before they head west for a four-game trip.