The Charlotte Hornets dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves for three quarters, but squandered that advantage and dropped a disheartening 125-120 overtime decision Saturday at Spectrum Center.
The Hornets led by as many as 15 points in the second half until Minnesota rallied early and late in the fourth quarter. The Timberwolves, who trailed 84-74 after three quarters, scored the first 10 points of the final quarter and took an 89-88 lead on a dunk by Shabazz Muhammad with 7 minutes, 47 seconds left.
Charlotte, however, went on an 11-4 run to regain control for a while. But after a Kemba Walker drive gave the Hornets a 106-103 lead, Minnesota’s Andrew Wiggins (29 points) hit a 3-pointer with 8.9 seconds left to tie it. Walker’s jumper as regulation expired missed.
The Timberwolves scored the first seven points of overtime. Although the Hornets cut it to 121-118 on a Marco Belinelli 3-pointer with 20 seconds left, they could draw no closer.
“Tonight was especially disappointing,” said Hornets coach Steve Clifford. “The reality is we’re going to become a more physical group or we’re not. But we’re not winning like this, not every night.”
Walker scored 22 points and Frank Kaminsky added 21 for the Hornets (11-9).
The Timberwolves (6-14), who were playing the second leg of a back-to-back (they lost to the New York Knicks on Friday), also got 27 points from center Karl-Anthony Towns.
Three who mattered
Kemba Walker: After scoring just two points in first half (he was in early foul trouble and played 12 minutes), he finished with 22.
Nicolas Batum: Hornets guard came close to a triple-double with 15 points, 12 assists and eight rebounds.
Karl-Anthony Towns: Timberwolves’ big man had 27 points and 15 rebounds.
▪ The Hornets maintained an 8- to 10-point lead for much of the first half, but the Timberwolves closed the second quarter on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to 52-49 at halftime. Charlotte was saved by a jumper by Nic Batum with .7 seconds left.
▪ Charlotte got that working margin during the half by playing tough defense. The Hornets held the Timberwolves to 39.1 percent shooting in the first half.
▪ Hornets forward Frank Kaminsky, starting in place of the injured Marvin Williams, scored eight quick points as Charlotte jumped to an early lead. But Kaminsky also had the unenviable task of guarding Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns and picked up two early fouls.
▪ Hornets coach Steve Clifford said the earliest forward Marvin Williams (hyperextended left knee) might return is next Wednesday against Detroit. Clifford said Williams took part in a light drill during Friday’s shootaround but isn’t ready to return yet. Williams has missed five games after hurting his knee Nov. 25 against the Knicks.
▪ Friday’s game was a reunion of sorts between Clifford and Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau. Clifford and Thibodeau were assistants under Jeff Van Gundy with the Knicks from 2001-03 and with the Houston Rockets from 2004-07.
▪ Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and guard Brandon Rush (toe) missed the game.
▪ Hornets shooting guard Nicolas Batum entered the game as one of six players in the NBA averaging more than 13 points (13.3), six rebounds (6.8) and five assists (5.2).
▪ Walker’s 56 3-pointers entering the game were the most in the Eastern Conference and fourth most in the NBA. Walker spent much of the first half on the bench in foul trouble.
They said it
“They crushed us with the physicality and blockouts in the fourth quarter. That can’t happen.” – Hornets coach Steve Clifford.
“A lot of mistakes on the defensive end’ we’ve got to be better down the stretch.” – Hornets guard Kemba Walker.
B OFFENSE: Made 43.6 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3-point range, but wasn’t there when it counted.
C- DEFENSE: Throttled Minnesota in first half, but let Towns and Wiggins have their way down the stretch.
C- COACHING: Couldn’t figure out a way to get past a team that had lost a tough game the night before in another city.
David Scott: 704-358-5889, @davidscott14