“Kevin (Love) can get so hot,” Charlotte Bobcats center Al Jefferson observed. “He started out hot...”
And then the Charlotte Bobcats placed the Minnesota Timberwolves superstar in a deep freeze. Love went scoreless in the second half, missing his seven shots from the field, as the Bobcats extended their home winning streak to eight, 105-93.
Bobcats power forwards Josh McRoberts and Cody Zeller took turns against Love, who finished with 18 points – eight below his average, fourth-best in the NBA. McRoberts pooh-poohed the idea he snuffed out Love; more a combination of sensible defense and Love missing shots he’d otherwise make.
“We let him score a lot in the first half, didn’t we?” McRoberts joked. “He’s so good that the defense is just about getting him away from the spots he wants most.
“The thing about guys like that is the next game he’ll make all seven of those shots.”
Bobcats coach Steve Clifford said they made no second-half adjustments defensively because there’s nothing to adjust; the Timberwolves play an offense that isn’t pattern-driven.
“It’s a read-oriented offense, so it’s really hard to game plan to take anything away,” Clifford said. “You more have to react.”
The Bobcats improved to 32-34, winning their fifth game in the past six. Jefferson was again terrific, finishing with 25 points and 16 rebounds. The variants in this game were how well the Bobcats rebounded as a team and how well the bench played.
The Bobcats outrebounded the Timberwolves 54-35. Small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had nine boards and Zeller added eight.
The Timberwolves clobbered the Bobcats in Minneapolis earlier this season, 119-92. Love had 14 rebounds in that game. Friday he had five. Center Nikola Pekovic also had a big game in Minneapolis; Friday he had eight points and four rebounds.
The other significant difference was the bench, which outscored Minnesota’s reserves 47-32. Shooting guard Gary Neal, back from a one-game benching in Washington over a disciplinary matter, generated 19 points off 6-of-10 shooting from the field. He was 3-of-3 from 3-point range.
Clifford said whatever happened before the victory over the Wizards was done; that Neal would go back to his normal minutes off the bench. Neal showed why the Bobcats acquired him at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Ramon Sessions to Milwaukee.
“I’ve never come into a new situation at mid-season,” said Neal. “Scoring is what I bring, but you also want to fit in. Not take every shot.”
Neal wasn’t alone in the bench scoring; Zeller and Chris Douglas-Roberts added 10 points each.
“Our bench gave us a big lift,” Jefferson said. “CDR is playing better and better every game.
“We’ve got a bench. That was the difference tonight.”
BOBCATS 105, TIMBERWOLVES 93
|Mbah a Moute||7:48||0-1||2-2||1-1||0||0||2|
Percentages: FG .427, FT .810. Three-Point Goals: 6-15, .400 (Martin 3-5, Love 2-4, Budinger 1-2, Barea 0-1, Brewer 0-1, Rubio 0-1, Shved 0-1). Team Rebounds: 6. Team Turnovers: 10 (14 PTS). Blocked Shots: 2 (Brewer, Cunningham). Turnovers: 10 (Rubio 3, Cunningham 2, Barea, Budinger, Mbah a Moute, Pekovic, Shved). Steals: 9 (Brewer 3, Rubio 2, Budinger, Cunningham, Martin, Pekovic).
Percentages: FG .484, FT .643. Three-Point Goals: 8-19, .421 (Neal 3-3, Henderson 2-3, Douglas-Roberts 2-4, Walker 1-2, Jefferson 0-1, McRoberts 0-6). Team Rebounds: 8. Team Turnovers: 15 (16 PTS). Blocked Shots: 6 (Kidd-Gilchrist 2, Biyombo, Jefferson, McRoberts, Ridnour). Turnovers: 15 (Walker 4, Jefferson 3, Ridnour 3, Henderson 2, Kidd-Gilchrist 2, Neal). Steals: 6 (Walker 3, Douglas-Roberts 2, Ridnour).
Att.—16,983 (19,077). T—2:01.
Officials—Scott Foster, Brian Forte, Haywoode Workman.