MINNEAPOLIS — Until Tuesday night, the Minnesota Timberwolves only had won once this season when they trailed by double digits.
Now they have done it twice by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-101 at Target Center on a night when the Bucks for so long looked little like one of the NBA’s worst scoring and shooting teams.
The Bucks made their first 12 shots from the field and led by 11 points before the first quarter was over, but the Timberwolves reversed course with a 31-23 third quarter in which they made five 3-pointers and turned the game.
Minnesota built a six-point lead by late in the third quarter and answered Milwaukee when it pushed back, extending the lead to 107-90 with fewer than five minutes left.
Until Tuesday, the Timberwolves’ only comeback from 10 points behind or more was a Dec. 11 home game in which they trailed Philadelphia by 19 points and still won.
Veteran shooting guard Kevin Martin led the Timberwolves with 26 points and Ricky Rubio delivered his 10th double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 assists. Forward Kevin Love added 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists during a game in which the Timberwolves kept their playoff hopes, however distant, alive by beating the team with the NBA’s worst record.
The Timberwolves did so by scoring 30 points off Milwaukee’s 15 turnovers.
The win helped Minnesota keep pace with Memphis, whom they trail by five games for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Guard Brandon Knight led the Bucks with x points on a night when his team played without injured big men Larry Sanders and Ersan Ilyasova.
The Bucks did not miss a shot until Khris Middleton did so with fewer than five minutes left in the first quarter.
Until Tuesday, the Bucks were 29th among 30 NBA teams in field-goal percentage.
By the time Middleton missed a 15-foot shot, the Bucks were on their way to leads of 20-11, 22-13 and 33-22 before the Timberwolves ended the first quarter and started the second quarter with an 18-7 run that pulled them even by midway through the second quarter.
The Timberwolves trailed again by double digits — 65-55 — early in the third quarter but used 3-pointers to build an 86-80 lead with 65 seconds left before the Bucks scored the final four points of the quarter to get within 86-84.
On Monday, Wolves reserve point guard J.J. Barea acknowledged he was in a “bad slump” but vowed that he would keep shooting because he knew his shot would return. On Tuesday, he made 6 of 7 shots from the field in the first half and scored 17 points before halftime. He scored two more points the rest of the night and finished with 19 off the bench.
The Timberwolves surrendered 61 first-half points to the league’s second-lowest scoring team and trailed by six points at intermission.
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 — and 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 to see Wolters. … 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 Indiana. … Timberwolves veteran A.J. Price was back in the locker room before Tuesday night’s game after he underwent an appendectomy on Sunday at a Minneapolis hospital and missed a game against Toronto. 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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