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Timberwolves reverse scoring trend in rout of Hornets

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves proved with Saturday's 115-86 runaway victory over New Orleans that the best thing about the NBA -- other than all that fame and fortune, of course -- is there's indeed always another game ahead in which to redeem yourself.

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

The Wolves didn't only end a six-game losing streak and win for the first time since beating Houston at home two weeks earlier. They also led the Hornets by 34 points after they had trailed the Lakers by 29 less than 24 hours earlier.

"It has been a long time, that's for sure," said Wolves veteran guard Luke Ridnour, whose team had lost 11 of 12 games before Saturday. "Just to have a blowout win is something our team needed at this point."

By reversing course in such short time, the Wolves (18-26) sent the Hornets (15-33) home from their five-game trip with four consecutive losses after it had opened with a victory in Memphis. The Hornets lost 113-98 at Denver on Friday.

The Wolves led by 19 points in the first quarter, by 30 before halftime and when the Hornets offer up their version of a comeback run, the closest they could get was a 23-point deficit midway through the third quarter before the Wolves pushed their lead back to 29 before quarter's end.

"That is a coach's responsibility, I didn't have the guys ready to ball," New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "That falls squarely on my shoulders, and right in my face."

The last time these teams played, the Wolves led by 18 early and lost by 12 last month in New Orleans.

This time, the Wolves brought back memories of their December victory in New Orleans by outscoring the Hornets 58-32 in the paint on Saturday.

"That is two out of three games where they have done that to us," Williams said. "Again, that's coaching."

The Wolves received a perfect 9-for-9 shooting performance from reserve forward Dante Cunningham, who in doing so set a franchise record for most consecutive shots made without a miss in a single game.

Most of them came from mid-range jump shots after the Wolves moved the ball with precision on a night when they racked up 30 assists, including 21 of them by guards Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved and J.J. Barea.

"I know," Rubio answered when asked if he knew Cunningham had delivered a perfect shooting night. "He was hot."

No. 1 overall draft pick Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 18 points in a game when star guard Eric Gordon once again was held out on the second night of back-to-back games in his comeback from last season's knee injury.

All 24 players in uniform on Saturday scored.

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 that they've allowed in a half.

"A win is a win, but winning like that when everyone is happy and everyone had his own role, especially with our defense, today it was amazing," Rubio said. "It seemed like it couldn't be, but everybody did a little bit more today."

NOTES: 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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