Turiaf boosts Wolves’ bench in return to lineup

Ronny Turiaf (right) played 22 minutes and pulled down nine rebounds on Monday for Minnesota in his return from an elbow injury. He spurred a Timberwolves bench that scored a season-high 47 points. 

Howard Smith/Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

As one of the Timberwolves’ season-high 16 3-pointers — this one from Kevin Love in the second quarter’s closing seconds — fell through, Ronny Turiaf hopped up from his seat and performed that familiar, patented sideline dance of his.

The backup center’s smile displayed more than just excitement at a large second-frame advantage he and the second unit helped create. Two-plus months of waiting and longing came to an end for Turiaf on Monday at Philadelphia, and he was undoubtedly thrilled to be back.

And his coach was just as happy to have him available.

Wolves 126, 76ers 95

"He makes a big difference," head man Rick Adelman said of Turiaf, who’d missed 31 games with a right-elbow fracture sustained in the second game of the season. "He just knows how to play. . . . He knows what his strengths are, and he plays to them."

Turiaf’s presence wasn’t the most deciding factor in the Timberwolves’ 126-95 victory, which tied the second-largest road victory margin in organization history. But his 22 minutes and nine rebounds were a welcome sight for a struggling bench and a team in need of a convincing win.

His fellow reserves didn’t disappoint.

Minnesota’s bench scored a season-high 47 points — 22 in the second quarter — and allowed the Timberwolves to take a 70-54 lead into the break. Triples by J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved sparked a 24-8 run over the final 6:56 of the second, and Love’s left-wing 3 closed it out.

That had Turiaf jirating on the sideline and the Timberwolves (17-17) well on their way to a blowout win.

Love made 4 of 7 3s, Corey Brewer connected on all three of his, and Martin and Barea added three apiece as Minnesota came within two of the franchise record for successful long-range attempts in a game. Even better, the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team of a year ago went 61.5 percent from outside, also its best mark of the season.

"We felt good," said Martin, who finished with 18 points. "We was in a rhythm, everybody was passing tonight, and guys were very unselfish tonight. The game is easier when you make it easier."

Cracked Adelman: "I figure if we make 16, we’re probably gonna win."

Brewer got things going with two 3s and 12 of his 15 points in the first quarter. Led by Thaddeus Young (20 points, 13 in the first period), the 76ers (12-22) stayed in stride with Minnesota through a frame, as the teams combined to make 24 of 44 shot attempts.

Love and Martin each hit a pair of 3s to break things open in the third, when the Timberwolves outscored Philadelphia 35-20. Love’s 4-point play on a wild, banked-home shot made it 101-74 with 2:07 left in the quarter.

That opened up the fourth for Adelman to empty his bench and give Turiaf some increased minutes. In two of Minnesota’s past three games, the reserves had scored only five points.

"Our bench did a nice job," Adelman said. "They came in in the second quarter and really gave us a lift, expanded the lead, and then when they came back in . . . towards the end, they did the same thing. Solid effort."

Love led seven Timberwolves in double figures with 26 points, Nikola Pekovic chipped in 16 points and 14 rebounds, and Barea had 13 points off the bench.

Now, Minnesota returns home for yet another chance to go over .500 this season; it’s been unsuccessful in its past seven chances, most recently a heartbreaking defeat Saturday against Oklahoma City when Love missed three late free throws.

"We came out ready to play," Adelman said. "I just liked the way that we came and our attitude."

Still awaiting the return of Chase Budinger (knee) and Luc Mbah a Moute (strained left groin), the Timberwolves host Phoenix on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m.

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