MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Lose by a little or win by a lot: that's been the story for the Minnesota Timberwolves this season.
There's still time to move past their spats and struggles make the playoffs for the first time in 10 years, and this was a forward step.
Nikola Pekovic scored 26 points in 27 minutes and the Timberwolves blew off some steam with a 119-92 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats on Friday.
"We just need to have one good streak and then we're right back where we need to be," said Kevin Love, who had 19 points and 14 rebounds and rested for most of the fourth quarter.
Kevin Martin added 19 points, and Minnesota's bench had 20 points before Charlotte's reserves even got on the board late in the second quarter.
"I'm happy when we play hard, when we play to the end," said Pekovic, who also stifled former Timberwolves big man Al Jefferson on the defensive end.
Anthony Tolliver led the Bobcats with 21 points on 5-for-5 shooting from 3-point range, and Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 16 points. Jefferson finished with only eight points and seven rebounds, though, and the Bobcats were outrebounded 54-33 on their way to their seventh loss in eight games.
"Basically just kicked our butts," Jefferson said.
The Timberwolves lost on Wednesday 104-103 to Phoenix to fall to 0-10 in games decided by four points or fewer. The tension lingered into the locker room where Love, who was critical recently of a particularly paltry output by the reserves, ripped J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham for their disinterested body language at the end of the bench.
By midway through the second quarter, though, all the frustration had faded away.
"We did a good job of letting the other night go. We forgot about that already. Now we're back winning, so we've just got to keep it going," Barea said.
The Wolves posted their league-leading eighth win of 20 points or more. They're also 8-2 following those losses of four points or less.
"They want to be a good team, but they have to find out how they're going to do that," said coach Rick Adelman, who remained critical of some defensive risks and forced shots, mistakes that have contributed to the close losses.
Love set the tone with a commanding start, posting his league-leading 31st double-double before halftime. Then the backups put together one of their sharpest stretches of the season. With Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf finally healthy, the second unit is much stronger.