MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Down 19 at home to the struggling Philadelphia 76ers, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ season had reached a bit of crossroads as the second quarter opened.
With a brutal trip awaiting, the Wolves simply couldn’t afford to drop this one. So they rolled up their sleeves and started chipping away, and the young Sixers let them right back in it.
Kevin Love had 26 points, 15 rebounds and five assists and the Timberwolves got solid contributions from their beleaguered bench to beat the 76ers 106-99 on Wednesday night.
“It took us a long time to get into it,” coach Rick Adelman said. “But then into the second quarter, into the second half, we just kind of gradually got a rhythm going and took control and they stopped.”
Ricky Rubio had 21 points, seven assists and five rebounds, Nikola Pekovic added 20 points and 10 rebounds, and Robbie Hummel hit a couple of big shots for the Wolves in the fourth quarter.
“It showed the second unit can step up and can score,” said Love, who racked up his fifth game this season with at least 25 points, 15 boards and five assists. No other player has done it once. “So I guess this was a character builder for us.”
Spencer Hawes had 20 points and six rebounds for the Sixers, who led 39-20 after a tremendous first quarter and had a 13-point advantage at halftime. But they turned the ball over 26 times and shot 14 free throws to Minnesota’s 29.
Hummel scored all 10 of his points in the fourth, including a 3-pointer that started the deciding 13-3 run. The Wolves grabbed 17 offensive rebounds to offset 38.5 percent shooting.
“We just had stats that were too insurmountable,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “It’s hard to make those types of deficits up on the road against a good team.”
The Wolves still trailed 86-81 with less than 9:30 to go before Hummel buried a 3 to get them started. Pekovic scored six points during the run, including a soft baseline jumper from the burly Montenegrin that put them in front 89-86.
Tony Wroten had 20 points in yet another start for Sixers star rookie Michael Carter-Williams, who missed his fourth straight game with a sore right knee. James Anderson added 16 points and eight rebounds.
The Sixers were surprisingly competitive early in the season, winning their first three games and beating the Miami Heat in the opener. But the pains of rebuilding have gradually started to set in, and they slumped into Target Center having lost 11 of their previous 13 games and eight in a row on the road.
Perhaps taking the game for granted, the Wolves put together a lifeless performance in the first half, and the young Sixers pounced. They shot a staggering 77 percent in the first quarter, closing it on a 20-3 run. They scored 15 fast-break points and held Minnesota to 30 percent shooting to build the cushion.
Turner and Young attacked the rim for easy layup after easy layup and Hawes hit two 3s to spread the floor, catching the Wolves totally flat-footed.
Kevin Martin missed his first eight shots and the Wolves still trailed by 13 at halftime in a game they absolutely needed. The Wolves leave Thursday for a tough trip to San Antonio, Memphis and Boston and also play Portland and at the Clippers and Lakers before Christmas.
“When you have a team down 20 that’s coming off a back-to-back and you have the opportunity to put a stamp on it, you’ve got to take advantage of it,” Hawes said. “Credit to them. They fought their way back.”
They finally showed some signs of life to start the third quarter, opening with a 13-2 run and tying the game on a 3-pointer from Rubio late in the quarter.
Rubio also had three steals. The Wolves scored 27 points off those Philly turnovers to hold off the Sixers.
NOTES: Wolves coach Rick Adelman said before the game that F Ronny Turiaf’s fractured right elbow isn’t healing as quickly as the team had hoped. He said Turiaf is still “a ways away” from playing, though there is no specific timetable. … Sixers PG Lorenzo Brown, a second-round pick of the Wolves who did not make the team out of training camp, played well with four points and six assists.
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