MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—With his team trailing by 11 points to the expansion Charlotte Bobcats at halftime, Minnesota Timberwolves coach Kevin McHale challenged every one of his players to make a difference after the break.
Kevin Garnett sure was listening.
A fired-up Garnett scored 22 of his 30 points in the second half, leading Minnesota to a 102-97 victory over Charlotte on Tuesday night.
“We got a little tongue-lashing at the half and came out and played a lot better,” said Wally Szczerbiak, who had 15 points.
Behind a dominating third-quarter effort by Garnett, who also had 15 rebounds and four blocks, the Timberwolves shook off a sluggish first half to win their third in a row and fourth in five games.
Minnesota shot just 32 percent in the first quarter, missing 14 of its first 19 shots, and trailed 53-42 at halftime. Garnett had just 8 points on 3-of-10 shooting.
“The first quarter was one of those difficult quarters where we couldn’t buy a basket,” Garnett said. “We had to run up the street to the hardware store and buy a few baskets and deliver them to the third quarter.”
He openly lobbied coach Kevin McHale for the ball in the third quarter, and delivered when he got it. Garnett made 7 of his 8 shots for 16 points and added six rebounds, one steal and two blocks as the Wolves outscored Charlotte 31-14 in the period to take control.
After hitting a jumper and getting fouled late in the third, Garnett looked toward McHale at the Wolves’ bench, emphatically pointing and pounding his chest. He appeared to be yelling directly at McHale, who said, “I know, I know, Kevin.”
When asked about the exchange, McHale sidestepped the question and Garnett would only say, “Be careful what you say to me, because I will spit back.”
Gerald Wallace finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and four blocks, but was taken to a local hospital for X-rays on his bruised left ribs after colliding with Szczerbiak late in the game.
Team officials said Wallace would accompany the team back to Charlotte on Tuesday night and be evaluated on Wednesday.
The Timberwolves pulled away in the fourth quarter thanks in large part to the Bobcats losing their composure.
Consecutive technical fouls on Keith Bogans and coach Bernie Bickerstaff led to a four-point possession for Minnesota, which capped a 9-0 run for an 87-81 lead.
The possession began with Szczerbiak driving to the basket and being fouled by Bogans underneath. Bogans argued the call, getting the first technical and Bickerstaff continued to argue, drawing a ‘T’ of his own.
Fred Hoiberg made both technical free throws and Szczerbiak made his two shots from the initial foul for an 87-71 lead with just under 8 minutes to play.
Wallace also drew a technical foul in the fourth.
“We play hard, but we don’t play with a purpose in terms of how we play the game,” Bickerstaff said.
Latrell Sprewell had 21 points despite missing two dunks in the first quarter for the Wolves.
The Bobcats, who embarrassed the Timberwolves in a 102-84 rout on Jan. 5, were sharp in the earlygoing, using a 16-0 run in the first quarter to take a 25-11 lead and get the restless Timberwolves fans booing.
“I’m pleased with that,” Bickerstaff said. “But then there was that little stretch after that where we allowed them to get back in the basketball game. … You have to play basketball with a purpose and understand the time and the score in those situations.”
Charlotte made 11 of its first 17 shots, with Jason Kapono scoring the last seven points of the run for a 14-point lead, but couldn’t hold it.
“That’s happening too many times,” McHale said of the slow starts. “We can’t have those anymore.”
The Bobcats had six players in double figures, including Kapono with 15. Bogans and Jason Hart added 14 points apiece.
Bobcats G Brevin Knight missed his second straight game with a sprained ankle. The Bobcats expect him to miss at least three games. … The Timberwolves’ 31 points in the third quarter were six off their season-high for points in a quarter.