Cunningham scores 18 as Timberwolves beat Hornets

Cunningham scores 18 as Timberwolves beat Hornets
February 2, 2013, 10:36 pm
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New Jersey Devils' David Clarkson (23) is checked into the bench by Pittsburgh Penguins' Simon Despres (47) during the first period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

(APWF)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Dante Cunningham scored a season-high 18 points, Nikola Pekovic added 14 and the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the New Orleans Hornets 115-86 on Saturday night to stop their six-game losing streak.

Cunningham hit all nine of his shots to set a franchise record for most consecutive field goals without a miss.

Anthony Davis scored 18 points for the Hornets, who played without Eric Gordon and finished their five-game road trip with four straight losses. Team doctors still haven't cleared Gordon to play in back-to-back games while recovering from knee surgery.

Gordon played 25 minutes at Denver on Friday, and the Hornets badly missed their star shooting guard's energy. A night after committing 22 turnovers, New Orleans turned it over 23 times against the Wolves, who recorded their largest victory margin this season.

One of the worst-shooting teams in the NBA, the Wolves shot 58 percent (45 for 77) using a simple formula: Get to the paint. Minnesota went hard to the basket early and often - 15 of its scoring possessions in the first quarter were either drives or free throws. The Timberwolves led 33-14 after one, and their lead was never seriously threatened.

Ricky Rubio, who took the blame for Minnesota's lackluster start in a 111-100 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday night, set an aggressive tone early by driving to the basket and finding open teammates with his usual flashy assists. The biggest highlight came late in the third quarter, when Rubio lobbed an alley-oop to Cunningham for a two-handed jam that stretched the Wolves' lead to 74-46 and brought the crowd to its feet.

Rubio had nine points and seven assists, and Minnesota outscored the Hornets 58-32 in the paint.

NOTES: New Orleans is 8-7 when Gordon plays and 7-26 in games he's missed. ``It's tough when you have a guy who can put up 20 points and you've got to sit him,'' Hornets coached Monty Williams said before the game. Much like Williams has done with Gordon this season, Wolves coach Rick Adelman has had to limit Rubio since returning from knee surgery. ``I understand the deal with Rubio,'' Williams said. ``He's such a great young player that you don't want to damage him for the future.'' Adelman, though, joked that he didn't believe early reports that Gordon wouldn't play. ``I'm just very pessimistic at this point,'' he said. ``He'll probably play 40 minutes.'' ... The Hornets are 9-4 in their last 13 against Minnesota. ... The Hornets matched their season low of 14 first-quarter points, which previously came against the Wolves on Jan. 11.