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Timberwolves 115, Hornets 86

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- It might be trite, but what NBA players often say is the best thing about their league -- other than fortune and fame, of course -- proved true for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday night in their 115-86 runaway victory over New Orleans.

Yes, the best thing about the NBA is, with one exception, there's always another game to let you forget about the last one.

One night after nearly getting lapped by the Los Angeles Lakers in the first half, the Wolves turned the proverbial table on the Hornets, doubling them up before halftime on a night when it looked like the visitors wanted nothing more than fly home from a five-game trip for Sunday's Super Bowl back home in New Orleans.

The Wolves led the Hornets by 34 points after they had trailed the Lakers by 29 points less than 24 hours earlier.

By reversing course in such short time, they ended a six-game losing streak and sent the Hornets home from their five-game trip with four consecutive losses after they had opened with a victory in Memphis.

Reserve forward Dante Cunningham set a franchise record for most consecutive shots without a miss in a game with a 9-of-9 shooting performance that led a team that had lost 11 of their previous 12 games.

Until Saturday's rout, the Wolves hadn't won since beating Houston at home two weeks ago.

On Friday, the Wolves trailed the Lakers 61-32 midway through the second quarter on a night when they got within four points late in the game but no closer.

The Wolves allowed 68 points by halftime in that one, the most points they've surrendered in a half this season.

On Saturday, they led New Orleans 58-31 at intermission, the fewest points by three they've allowed in a half.

Cunningham was perfect from the field and led the Wolves with 18 points off the bench. All of Minnesota's 12 healthy players scored.

Rookie Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 18 points in a game when star guard Eric Gordon was held out on the second night of back-to-back games in his comeback from last season's knee injury.

The Wolves built leads of 15-8 and 21-12 and then finished the first quarter by scoring the final 12 points to take a 33-14 lead by quarter's end that was only just the beginning.

They built that lead by shooting 75 percent -- 12 of 16 -- from the field in the quarter, a percentage that surpassed what the Lakers did them the night before, even if they missed both 3-pointers they attempted in the first quarter while the Lakers made 10 of their first 13 3-pointers on Friday.

The Wolves' 34-point fourth-quarter lead was their biggest this season, seven more than the 27 by which they led Orlando back on Nov. 7.

The 29-point margin victory exceeded by 11 their previous biggest victory, an 18-point decision over Cleveland on Dec. 7.

NOTES: Gordon once again sat out the second of back-to-back games, part of the team's protocol since he returned in late December from a knee injury. His back also was hurting him after Friday's game in Denver. "It's tough when you have a guy who can put up 20 points and you have to sit him," Hornets coach Monty Williams said, "but that's what we've had to do since I've been here, juggling lineups all the time." Veteran Roger Mason started in Gordon's place. ... The Wolves are 24th in the league in free-throw shooting after going 8 OF 18 in Friday's 111-100 home loss to the Lakers. They are shooting 72.9 percent for the season. Don't they practice them? "Unless we bring 15,000 people in here for practice and yell at 'em, I don't see how you're going to replicate it," coach Rick Adelman said. "I've seen guys knock 'em down and knock 'em down in practice, but it changes in the game."... The Hornets finished a five-game trip Saturday and then headed home late that night, just in time for Sunday's 49ers-Ravens Super Bowl in New Orleans. Many players have tickets for the game. A Cowboys fan who had to shelve his allegiance when he took the Hornets' job, Williams said he doesn't care a bit who wins. "But I'm going, so I want to see a good game," he said.
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