MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Charlotte Bobcats were in prime position to snap a 15-game losing streak when D.J. Augustin returned to the lineup and helped them take the lead into halftime.
By the time the dust settled on yet another loss, the Bobcats were still trying to figure out the license number on the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Montenegrin truck that ran them over in the final 24 minutes.
Kevin Love had 30 points and 18 rebounds, and Nikola Pekovic added 21 points and 11 boards while playing the entire second half to help the Minnesota Timberwolves hand the Bobcats their 16th loss in a row, 102-90 on Wednesday night.
“I thought we did OK against Kevin because he shot a lot of outside shots,” Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. “But the other kid. Pep-a-vich his name is? Whatever, he just killed us down there.”
Pekovic had just six points on 3-for-9 shooting in the first half, but scored 15 while going 7 for 8 from the field and bulldozing rookie Bismack Biyombo over the final two quarters.
“We had four losses in a row,” said Pekovic, who played a career-high 43 minutes. “This was our game. We needed to win this game and we won.”
Kemba Walker had 21 points and six rebounds and Corey Maggette scored 18 points for the Bobcats, who have lost 22 of the last 23 games. Augustin played for the first time in 12 games, but his return wasn’t enough to lift Charlotte out of the worst losing streak in franchise history.
Augustin had nine points and four turnovers in 24 minutes.
“My timing was off a little bit, but it was good for me to get back out there,” he said. “Hopefully next game, everything will be intact.”
The Bobcats were feisty for the first three quarters, leading by nine points early, by two at halftime and keeping it tied at 66 with 3 minutes to go in the third. But the Wolves closed the third on a 10-0 run, and the Bobcats wilted in the fourth.
Luke Ridnour, who has struggled mightily with his shot the last four games, scored six points in a 13-4 surge to open the fourth, and J.J. Barea hit a deep 3 for an 89-70 lead.
“It’s hard to go into a half-court set against their guys,” Silas said. “They have big guys down low. They’re not shot blockers, but they’re big. They put us in a situation where we didn’t capitalize.”
The Bobcats haven’t won since Jan. 14 against Golden State, a woeful stretch in which the team has been beset by injuries to key players. Augustin came off the bench in his return from an 11-game absence because of an inflamed right toe and Maggette played in his fourth game since missing time with a strained left hamstring.
Gerald Henderson is out with a strained right hamstring, so Silas hasn’t had his complete roster available for almost the entire season.
The Timberwolves have struggled with slow starts for most of the season, especially at home. Another one Wednesday night helped the Bobcats race out to a 15-6 lead and get some much-needed confidence.
“We knew if we were able to go on one of our runs, they weren’t going to be able to fight back and get a win against us,” Love said. “We were happy to get this one. We surely needed it.”
As crazy as it sounds, the Wolves were nearly as desperate as Charlotte. After winning five of seven to creep into the playoff conversation in the West, they had faltered and faced a brutal stretch of games coming up that includes Houston, Philadelphia, Denver, Utah and a trip out west to face the Clippers and Lakers.
To illustrate, the Wolves were up 18 with 4 minutes to play and Love, who leads the league in minutes and could use a little rest, didn’t sit until there was under 2 minutes to go.
Barea had 12 points and eight assists and Ridnour scored 10 points for the Wolves.
“We’ve got a real tough schedule before the break and even after the break,” Ridnour said. “So just to get off the four-game losing streak and get some positive energy going for this team is what we need.”
NOTES: Love said before the game that the aquarium at the Mall of America plans to name an octopus after him. Can’t see the resemblance? Both have very strong grippers, of course. … Silas and Wolves assistant Jack Sikma were teammates in Seattle from 1977-80. “I made him tough,” Silas said, smiling.
(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)