NEW ORLEANS â€“ Another first-half lead disappeared in the final 24 minuntes for Monty Williams and the New Orleans Hornets. This time it was Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves who surged past New Orleans in the second half for a 87-80 victory over the Hornets on Friday night at New Orleans Arena.
Love scored 28 of his game-high 34 points in the second half to go with 15 rebounds. He also made 17-of-18 free throws, the majority of which coming in the fourth quarter when New Orleans staged a comeback.
Despite a 38-37 halftime lead, New Orleans found themselves down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, thanks to a 9-0 run by the Tâ€™wolves to open the period. Love did most of his damage, scoring 17 points in the third quarter to give Minnesota a 63-51 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Luke Ridnour scored 13 points an Ricky Rubio added 12 points and nine assists
New Orleans (3-8) would mount a furious comeback, led by Marco Belinelli, Jarrett Jack and seldom-used reserve forward Gustavo Ayon. The Hornets narrowed the gap courtesy of two, 3-pointers by Belinelli, a jumper by Jack and a fastbreak dunk by Ayon which brought the crowd of 14,295 to their feet.
New Orleans tied the score on three separate occasions in the fourth quarter, the last coming on a 3-pointer by Belinellli to make the score 78-78 at the 2:00 mark. However, Minnesota answered with seven straight free throws to put the game out of the Hornets reach, sending New Orleans to their fifth-straight home loss of the season.
â€œOur guys could have easily folded when (New Orleans ) tied it, but we didnâ€™t,â€ Love said. â€œWe got a basket and made our free throws down the stretch. That was huge. I was happy to get to the line a lot and get in that rhythm. Thatâ€™s what really did it for us down the stretch.â€
Belinelli finished with a team-high 20 points, while Emeka Okafor scored 16 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. DaJuan Summers added 11 points for New Orleans before fouling out late in the game. Jack chipped in with eight points and nine assists and Ayon finished with a career-high seven points.
Unfortunately it wasnâ€™t enough for New Orleans, who lost their second consecutive game.
â€œThey came out with an aggressive mentality (in the third quarter) and we didnâ€™t,â€ Jack said.â€ They took control of the game and we didnâ€™t and we had to play catch up the rest of the game. When you dig yourself a hole in this league, it is very, very tough and very seldom do you get out.â€
Although Minnesota (4-7) was outrebounded 48-51, committed 17 turnovers and shot a mere 34 percent from the field, the Tâ€™wolves remained in control of the game due in part to 38 free throw attempts. Minnesota made 33 of those attempts.
â€œI thought that we just kept putting them on the free throw line,â€ Williams said. â€œYou can question the calls all day, but that wasnâ€™t it. I just felt like we didnâ€™t trust our defense, and we were grabbing guys instead of moving our feet. Itâ€™s one of those situations where it shouldnâ€™t have come to that.â€
The Hornets also struggled from the field, shooting 37 percent for the game. Chris Kaman and Carly Landry combined to go 1-of-18 from the floor for five points.
The Hornets travel to face Southwest division foe, the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night.
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