NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A slow start left New Orleans Hornets coach Monty Williams searching for answers by juggling his lineup.
Midway through the second quarter, with mostly reserves on the floor, the right combination clicked. After falling behind by 18 points early, the Hornets outscored Minnesota 48-32 from the 6:38 mark of the second period through the end of the third quarter in a 104-92 victory over the Timberwolves on Friday night.
“I threw a few lineups out in the first half just to try to get some energy,” Williams said. “This is what young teams go through, the day in and day out grind of the NBA. It’s hard to get your mental focus up and a lot of times young guys just can’t do it.”
Greivis Vasquez had 18 points and 13 assists for the Hornets, who have now won four consecutive games for the first time since last April.
Eric Gordon added 16 points, Ryan Anderson had 15, Jason Smith 14, Al-Farouz Aminu 12 and Roger Mason 10 for the Hornets, who have won five of six games with Gordon in the starting lineup. Aminu also had 13 rebounds.
“We definitely are really stringing it together,” Anderson said. “Obviously, that first quarter, we want to play better than that. We really gave a great effort to come back in that game.”
Luke Ridnour led the Timberwolves with 20 points. Nikola Pekovic added 18 points, Andrei Kirilenko 17, Dante Cunningham 12 and Alexey Shved 11 as Minnesota dressed out only nine players because of injuries.
Ricky Rubio was held to 3 points on 1-for-3 shooting.
“I think (fatigue) is some of it,” acting Timberwolves coach Terry Porter said. “I’m not trying to take away anything that New Orleans did. It seemed like at times some guys had some heavy legs.”
The Timberwolves dominated the lane early, scoring 30 points in the paint to take a 46-40 halftime lead. But the Hornets’ collapsing defense held the Timberwolves to 4-of-16 shooting in the third quarter and New Orleans outscored Minnesota 30-15 to take a 70-61 lead.
After being on the short end of a 30-20 margin in points in the lane in the first half, New Orleans took control underneath and had a 40-34 advantage at the end of the third period. The Hornets, who gave up 70 points underneath in an earlier loss to the Timberwolves, outscored Minnesota 48-40 in the paint.
“Their defense did a good job in the second half,” Kirilenko said. “They were physical and banged us around. We did not respond well.”
Hornets forward Anthony Davis, who scored 1 point in the first half, scored eight in the third period and finished with nine overall.
Davis’ jumper tied the score at 50 with 6:36 left in the third quarter and Vasquez’s 3-pointer gave the Hornets their first lead at 55-54 with 5:11 remaining.
Davis’ layup with 4:13 remaining put the Hornets ahead for good.
“I thought (Davis) was a little too relaxed to start and then the second time he went back in he was running the floor, getting layups and dunks,” Williams said.
The Hornets trailed 29-14 at the end of the first quarter and by 17 points midway through the second but Gordon scored seven points on a closing 18-6 run. New Orleans made seven of its last nine shots of the half.
NOTES: Minnesota coach Rick Adelman missed his third consecutive game. Adelman has been home with his wife, who was recently hospitalized. … Vasquez has double-doubles in five of the past six games, including the past three. … The Hornets won for the first time in franchise history when an opponent made at least 18 free throws. Minnesota was 26 of 33 from the line. … The Hornets hit the century mark for the first time since a 113-102 loss to Minnesota on Dec. 14, and just the eighth time this season.
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