Timberwolves Cruise Past 76ers 126-95
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Nikola Pekovic had to chuckle on the bench as fans held a pair of gigantic cutouts of his head right over him.
His Minnesota teammates were certainly amused, laughing at the trio of Pekovic heads.
“When you look at the heads, then you hold it up to close to him, they’re actually the same size,” Kevin Love said, smiling.
The T-Wolves could afford some levity after a romp on a night when the basket had to look as large as one of those oversized heads.
Love scored 16 of his 26 points in a dominant third quarter and Pekovic had 16 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 126-95 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.
Minnesota made 16 of 26 3-pointers (62 percent) to put this one away in a hurry and moved back to .500 (17-17). Kevin Martin scored 18 points and Corey Brewer had 15 to help the Timberwolves win for the fourth time in six games.
Thaddeus Young scored 20 points for the Sixers, who entered the night having won the final four games of a six-game road trip.
The Timberwolves ended any threat of Philadelphia extending its streak by the second quarter. They led by 16 at the half and Love hit a pair of 3s in the third to build a 31-point lead.
The Timberwolves had seven players score in double figures.
The undersized Sixers simply had no answer for the Love and Pekovic underneath, or in Love’s case from beyond the arc. Young, named before the game the Eastern Conference player of the week, gamely tried to shut down the potent duo, with no luck.
Love and the Timberwolves turned the game into a blowout in the third. He hit his first 3 for a 24-point lead, converted a three-point play for a 25-point lead, then nailed another 3 late in the quarter to make it 96-71.
The Sixers showed why they are one of the worst 3-point defending teams in the league. Love hit four, Martin had three and the Timberwolves hit 13 of 20 through the first three quarters. That was more than enough to finish off the Sixers.
The Sixers were riding a season-best four-game winning streak, capped by a win at Portland. Perhaps fatigued from the lengthy road trip, they were never much of a factor after the first quarter. Minnesota closed the first half on a 24-8 run, with Brewer and Love hitting game-changing 3s.
“They were playing good basketball, but Coach mentioned a couple of times that it’s always tough coming back from a long road trip like that, so they might be a little complacent, a little lackadaisical,” Love said. “We just felt they were a little tired being gone so long. We tried to take advantage of that, and I felt we did.”
There’s no break in the schedule for the Sixers. They play Tuesday at Cleveland and back-to-back home games Friday and Saturday.
“I’ve never seen a schedule like this coming back from a West Coast trip,” said center Spencer Hawes. “It’s not like we’re just getting to stay home.”
The already sparse crowd, still reeling from the Eagles’ early postseason loss, fled for the exits by the fourth. The final quarter had the feel of a preseason game — which the Sixers surely wish it was. A.J. Price and Robbie Hummel connected on consecutive 3s in the final minute for the final 3s for a team that was shooting only 34 percent. Ricky Rubio had eight assists and Minnesota held a 53-40 rebounding edge.
“Just a really solid win for us,” coach Rick Adelman said. “We came out at the start of the game and played well all the way through. We did a pretty good job of keeping them in the half court and passed the ball and shot the ball well.”
James Anderson had 14 points, and Michael Carter-Williams and Evan Turner each scored 13 points for the Sixers.
“We’ve just got to bounce back,” Turner said.
NOTES: Timberwolves C Ronny Turiaf was scoreless in 22 minutes in his first game since he hurt an elbow on Nov. 1. … Timberwolves F Luc Mbah a Moute sat out with a strained groin. … 76ers G Tony Wroten was inactive with the flu. … The game between the San Antonio Spurs and Timberwolves originally scheduled to be played in Mexico City on Dec. 4 will now be played in Minnesota on April 8.
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