MINNEAPOLIS — Before Tuesday, the Minnesota Timberwolves won only once this season when they trailed by double digits in a game.
They did it a second time, coming back from 11 points behind in the first quarter to beat the Milwaukee Bucks 112-101 at Target Center.
“Hopefully we don’t have to do it a third time,” Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin said, “because it doesn’t work out a lot in your favor in the NBA.”
The Wolves (32-31) recovered and overcame an opponent that arrived at Target Center with the NBA’s worst record. Milwaukee (13-51) also was ranked 29th in the league in scoring and field-goal percentage.
All the Bucks did was open the game by making their first 12 shots from the field. They put up 61 first-half points and led by six points at halftime against a Wolves team that couldn’t afford a third loss in a four-game homestand that ended Tuesday if they are to have any chance of keeping their distant playoff hopes alive.
“I guess they were due,” Martin said. “We realized that wasn’t us in the first half.”
So just who was that team?
“I don’t know,” Martin said. “I think that was a summer-league team.”‘
Martin and forward Kevin Love led a third-quarter resurgence during which the Wolves made five 3-pointers — Martin and Love with two each — and outscored the Bucks 31-23 in the quarter to turn the game.
The Wolves then used a 19-4 run that started the fourth quarter to build a 105-88 lead with five minutes left, and the Bucks never seriously challenged again.
The only other time this season the Wolves have recovered from a deficit of 10 or more points to win was a December home game against Philadelphia, when they trailed the 76ers by 19 points and still won.
Love delivered 27 points and 10 rebounds Tuesday. Martin provided 26 points, and point guard Ricky Rubio had 11 points and 10 assists, his 10th double-double this season. Guard J.J. Barea also scored 19 points off the bench for the Wolves, who kept pace with Memphis. Minnesota still trails the eighth-place Grizzlies by five games for the final Western Conference playoff spot.
Until the fourth quarter, the Bucks seemed serious about winning consecutive games for the first time this season. They beat the Orlando Magic at home on Monday.
On Tuesday, Milwaukee played without injured big men Ersan Ilyasova and Larry Sanders and chose not to play O.J. Mayo basically for his third consecutive game. The Bucks were done in by 15 turnovers that the Wolves turned into 30 points.
“We did some good things,” Bucks coach Larry Drew said. “To win on the road, you have to be better. You have to take care of the basketball, (shot) selection has to be good. You just can’t turn the ball over. I thought for three quarters we played well. I thought we did some really good things.”
Included were the 12 consecutive made shots to start the game. By the time forward Khris Middleton became the first Buck to miss a shot, Milwaukee already led by as much as nine points.
“That doesn’t happen very often,” Bucks rookie point guard Nate Wolters said of the 12-for-12 shooting start.
The Wolves made it a game by halftime after Barea scored 12 second-quarter points. He had 17 points by halftime just one day after he talked about needing to break out of a slump.
He said Monday that his shot would return because it always does, and then he went out and made six of seven first-half shots from the field and seven of 10 for the game.
“I was due for something,” Barea said.
Barea’s play allowed the Wolves to get within 61-55 at halftime, at which time Minnesota coach Rick Adelman delivered his team a simple, direct message.
“He just said, ‘Play better,'” Love said.
NOTES: Bucks rookie PG Nate Wolters turned off his cell phone because he had so many tickets requests for Tuesday night’s game back home in Minnesota. He is from St. Cloud, about an hour’s drive north of Minneapolis. He would only quantify his fan club on Tuesday as a lot of family members and friends who were headed to Target Center to see him play there as a pro for the first time. Included was his former high school coach, who was bringing a busload of people. … Bucks F Ersan Ilyasova did not play Tuesday because of right ankle soreness. John Henson started in his place. F Larry Sanders (fractured orbital bone) and G Carlos Delfino (foot surgery) remain out as well for Milwaukee. … Timberwolves injured backup C Ronny Turiaf is set to get back on the court this week for some conditioning work, his first activity since he sustained a knee bone bruise in a Feb. 19 game against the Indiana Pacers. … Timberwolves veteran G A.J. Price was back in the locker room before Tuesday night’s game after he underwent an appendectomy Sunday at a Minneapolis hospital and missed a game against the Toronto Raptors. Price and Turiaf were the team’s inactive players on Tuesday. … Timberwolves F Luc Mbah a Moute played host Tuesday to 12 teenage basketball players from a French club team who flew to the United States to see him play.
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