The Minnesota Timberwolves have relied heavily on their starters this season, but Wednesday night, it was their bench that propelled them past the New Orleans Pelicans. Although not a staggering number, the Timberwolves’ bench did score an unusually high 28 points in their 88-77 victory.
Ricky Rubio, Ronny Turiaf and Corey Brewer were the three starters who only managed single-digits in the points column, but J.J. Barea‘s 10, and Dante Cunningham‘s 12 more than made up for it. Also surprising to see from the Timberwolves was a more responsibly handled playing time distribution for the majority of the starters.
Aside from Kevin Love and Kevin Martin, no player played more than 26 minutes against the Pelicans, a surprising stat for a Timberwolves squad that more times than not has all five starters playing more than 30 a game. Usually, head coach Rick Adelman likes overplaying his starters, which often comes back to haunt them in the fourth quarter when they normally blow their slim lead.
The Timberwolves were leading by just five points heading into the fourth quarter, yet they still outscored the Pelicans by six in the final 12 minutes, thus giving them the 11-point victory. This may be a turning point for a team that leads the league in first quarter points scored (28), but is becoming known for blowing fourth quarter leads because of how often it happens.
Although the Timberwolves will be without Nikola Pekovic for another seven to 10 days due to an ankle injury, Adelman must better manage the minutes of Love who totaled 43 Wednesday night. Love was the games high-scorer with 30 points and 14 rebounds, but the Wolves are entering a crucial must-win stretch of their schedule in which Love needs to be at full-strength.
Their next three games are against teams either hovering at or below .500, and with the Wolves now at 23-22, they must begin their climb up the Western Conference standings. Just two games out of the eighth seed, the Wolves are very much in the playoff picture, and if Adelman continues to show more faith in his bench, they will have a very good shot at playing more than 82 games this season.