MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves started an important eight-game stretch with an emphatic victory, handing the improving Washington Wizards their worst loss of the season.
The Wizards hope they didn’t lose something much more important than just one game.
Love had 25 points and 11 rebounds, and J.J. Barea scored 17 points off the bench to help the Timberwolves beat Washington 120-98 on Friday night.
Ricky Rubio had 11 points, nine assists and eight rebounds in 26 minutes, and Nikola Pekovic added 18 points and 10 boards for the Timberwolves. Minnesota turned the ball over only five times and got 44 points from its long-struggling reserves.
"It’s no secret we need more production from our bench," Love said. "That really helps out some of the starters, especially when every night isn’t going to be great for all of our guys, one through five."
John Wall had 26 points and seven assists for the Wizards, who missed a chance to win their fourth straight road game for the first time since March 2008. Nene added 13 points and five rebounds, but Bradley Beal had to be helped off the floor in the fourth quarter with a left leg injury.
Beal scored 14 points in 26 minutes, but got tangled up on a screen by Wolves forward Luc Mbah a Moute with 4:25 to go. Beal was knocked to the ground and couldn’t put any pressure on his left leg as Jan Vesely and Trevor Ariza helped him to the locker room.
"With the knee injuries going on this year in the NBA, you just hope (Beal’s) isn’t one of those ones that (is) devastating," Wall said.
Preliminary X-rays were negative on Beal’s left knee and he will have an MRI on Saturday.
"I was just trying to really get up and I really couldn’t get up," Beal said. "Was hoping it wasn’t anything too serious or too crazy. I mean, I was able to put a little weight on it afterwards. Just have to see with the MRI tomorrow."
Beal missed nine games this season with a stress fracture in his right leg, and the Wizards count on his scoring as part of their dynamic young backcourt.
Barea shot 8 of 10 and Alexey Shved scored 13 points and grabbed five rebounds to give the Wolves some much-needed balance between their starters and bench.
The Timberwolves slogged through a brutal opening two months, weathering injuries to Chase Budinger and Ronny Turiaf and the third-toughest schedule in the NBA to post a 13-15 record. It was underwhelming considering the high hopes they started the season with, but not wholly unexpected given the schedule.
Now is the time they have to make a move if they want to be a factor in the Western Conference playoff race. They play six of the next eight at home and face five teams that are currently under .500.
The Wolves got off to an awful start Friday, shooting 28 percent in the first quarter. But they got to the free throw line 10 times to stay close, then made their move in the second quarter with 39 points.
"It makes things a lot easier," coach Rick Adelman said of his second-team backcourt. "I like the way they played at both ends of the court. We’ve got to get something going when those guys come in."
The Wizards, meanwhile, were looking to end a four-game road swing with a statement. They beat the Knicks, Nets and Celtics to start the trip, then had five days off before facing the Timberwolves, and coach Randy Wittman wanted to see his young team build on the steps he believed they took in those victories.
Wall scored 22 points in the first half, but just four in the second as the Wizards faded.
The Wolves dictated play for most of the night, shooting 38 free throws to just 17 for Washington and outrebounding the Wizards 44-35, including 14-9 on the offensive end.
"They were tougher than we were," Wittman said. "They pushed us around. We had no resistance. So we’ve got to put this game behind us but learn from it."
Notes: Former Timberwolves F Martell Webster scored 11 points for the Wizards. . . . Wizards F Kevin Seraphin missed the game with a sore right knee. . . . The Timberwolves’ game against Phoenix on Jan. 8 has been moved to an 8:30 p.m. CST start to accommodate ESPN.