Short four starters and half of their normal active roster, Wednesday’s version of the Minnesota Timberwolves were about as undermanned a team as I’ve seen since Don Nelson was forced to exercise a little-known rule and put a fouled-out Warrior in the game during his most recent stint with Golden State. Lucky for Rick Adelman, his group of nine healthy bodies (one more than the league’s required minimum) was able to keep the fouling under control as they battled the .500 Bobcats at the Target Center. Though the afterthought of a contest had appeared to be developing into a Charlotte blowout, the situation got awfully interesting in the final minutes as Minnesota put together a 34-point fourth quarter.
We’ll pick things up with 38 seconds left, at which point I had just tuned in. When I switched over from whatever game I’d been watching, Reggie Williams had just pulled a Chris Webber. Charlotte’s lead had been whittled down to a mere two points, and Luke Ridnour’s impending technical free throw would slice it in half. Suddenly the T-Wolves, who’d trailed by double figures for more than half of the fourth quarter, were in position to shoot for the lead. However, their control of the situation appeared as though it’d be short lived. Ramon Sessions stole a careless pass from the rookie Alexey Shved and took off for the front of the opposite rim, where he was met by Dante Cunningham. A foul was whistled on Cunningham, though I’m not convinced that one was committed (looked like a pretty spectacular block to me).
In the end, it mattered not. Sessions bricked a pair and the Timberwolves marched right back down to the offensive end. Shved drove the baseline and took aim at redemption, but his pull-up jump shot was off the mark. Tyrus Thomas secured the rebound, but in another bizarre twist of fate, he wandered across the baseline with the ball in hand. Thomas wasn’t blatantly shoved (though Andrei Kirilenko definitely nudged him toward the endline), yet he made no attempt to dribble, pass, or throw the ball off of a Timberwolf. Clearly, he expected to coerce the nearest official into whistling a push. Needless to say, it was a poor decision that gave possession back to Minnesota.
Finally, on their third opportunity, the Wolves were able to capitalize on Charlotte’s series of miscues. Derrick Williams, who was fouled on a layup attempt off of the inbound pass, nearly broke the basket with his first free throw, but was able to direct his second attempt into the hoop. For the first time since 0-0, it was a tie game.
With 12 seconds left in regulation, the Bobcats put the ball in the hands of their leading scorer, Kemba Walker. Facing a rangy defender in Alexey Shved, Kemba jabbed hard to his right, darted to his left, and dramatically yanked the ball in the same direction. His killer crossover sent Shved stumbling backwards, creating the space necessary for a clean release.
Make it a three-game win steak for the 4-3 Charlotte Bobcats (bet you never expected to read that sentence!).