Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 3/20/12
It was a third quarter to forget, but a night that the Timberwolves would do well to remember. It was closer than it should have been in Oakland on Monday. It was messy at times, more difficult than it should have been. But when the final buzzer sounded, the Timberwolves came out on top, 97-93, despite appearing as if they'd quit entirely in the game's third quarter. Until halftime, it was a blowout. The Timberwolves were in charge, the Warriors hapless. A 6-0 Timberwolves' lead at the outset stretched to a 49-35 margin at the half, and it seemed that the end of Minnesota's three-game skid would be over long before the game's official end. It wasn't. After being outscored 32-22 in the third quarter, the Timberwolves barely squeaked past Golden State. But the four-point margin doesn't matter. The losing streak is over, no matter how ugly the game that ended it was, and though 19 games remain in the season, this win may have been more needed than any so far this year. "I don't know if it's a must-win," Adelman said before the game. "There's still 19 games to go. You never know when you're going to win a game. But it certainly is an important game for us to try to turn it around." Things might not yet have turned around, but at least the skid ended. Wednesday night in San Antonio will be the team's first chance to start a winning streak rather than cycle back into a losing stretch, and against one of the best teams in the Western Conference, it will be tough. The Timberwolves are banged up, their lineup pieced together; they're not only missing Rubio but also dealing with nagging injuries to Nikola Pekovic and Michael Beasley, both of whom were unable to finish Monday's game. Despite those notable absences, though, the Timberwolves were able to compensate against Golden State. Point guards J.J. Barea and Luke Ridnour had 10 assists each, and Anthony Tolliver was effective, scoring 10 points as the team's big man with Pekovic unable to finish the game and Darko Milicic unavailable. As usual, Kevin Love powered the offense, with 36 points and 17 rebounds, but this win was noteworthy for something other than the statistics. During Minnesota's 115-99 loss on Sunday in Sacramento, the team was on edge. Love and Barea exchanged words during a timeout, and even a casual observer would have noticed that tensions were high. After the loss, Timberwolves' coach Rick Adelman acknowledged that perhaps the best thing about the night was that the team would be forced to come out the next day and play again. His suspicions proved correct. "We just needed to come in here and beat them on their home court," Love said. "Yesterday we had a rough one. Tensions were high, but we all responded, got together, talked things out." Tolliver said that as rough as things got on Monday -- and it wasn't pretty, at times -- he was happy about the way the team responded overall. But it shouldn't be lauded as some miraculous mental shift; it's part of an NBA player's job to respond in such a way, Tolliver said. But don't let that take away from the win. Instead of giving in to sloppy play and resigning to a blown lead, the Timberwolves responded on Monday night in a way that belied their injuries and recent struggles. Heading into the final two games of the road trip, that's just what they needed. San Antonio and Oklahoma City might be the toughest opponents the team will face all month, and to arrive back in the Central time zone with a win will work in the Timberwolves' favor. It's a tiny advantage, but this team will need all the tiny advantages it can get going forward. Follow Joan Niesen on Twitter.
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