Your Minnesota Timberwolves have defeated a playoff team. In a game decided by one possession. On the road.
It’s true. The Wolves held onto what was once a hefty, 20-plus point lead in the first half and defeated the Dallas Mavericks in overtime, 123-122. Ricky Rubio notched an easy triple-double well before overtime began, and Kevin Love sealed the game with an array of free throws and post moves in the extra session.
The Wolves largely held Monta Ellis in check, save for a couple of wide open long balls in the fourth quarter and overtime, and other than Dirk Nowitzki, the Mavericks weren’t overly potent offensively on the evening.
For the Wolves, it was the Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love show. Kevin Martin struggled from the field, and with no Nikola Pekovic, the visitors needed their stars to shine on Wednesday night. Rubio shot an exceedingly impressive 8 of 12 from the field for 22 points, adding 15 assists, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals in 49 minutes played.
Kevin Love added 35 points, 8 rebounds, and 3 assists in 41 minutes. The bench held onto what was mostly a slim lead early in the fourth quarter, allowing Rick Adelman to rest Love for extended minutes. Robbie Hummel received key minutes down the stretch, including overtime, playing minutes that Chase Budinger, Shabazz Muhammad, or Luc Richard Mbah a Moute would normally receive.
After five largely ineffective minutes by Budinger in the first half, he didn’t see the floor after halftime. Muhammad had his second straight DNP-CD, after a string of impressive performances. Gorgui Dieng played a great game until picking up his fourth foul late in the third quarter (10 points, 11 rebounds), and he didn’t get off the bench after that.
But the rotation worked tonight. And Kevin Love was fantastic down the stretch, pulling down rebounds and hitting a huge hook shot on a pump fake and step-through a double-team with less than thirty seconds left in overtime, taking the Wolves from a one-point deficit to the eventual one-point margin of victory. After a Dallas timeout, Love checked Dirk outside the lane and contested Nowitzki’s potentially game-winning fadeaway to perfection.
The Wolves deserved to win this game. In a perfect world, they would have hung onto their massive early lead. But winning a close game down the stretch was big, too. Rubio was fantastic on both ends of the court, and set the tone throughout. He had a few crossovers that got him past (the poor defensive) likes of Jose Calderon and Devin Harris and straight to the rim for easy baskets.
He was still his usual pass-happy self, however, and found Love for a number of easy hoops in the paint. If Rubio plays like this on a regular basis, there is zero question that he would be an All-Star next season.
Let’s enjoy this one. It was a very, very satisfying victory. Minnesota is back at it tomorrow night in Houston against a Dwight Howard-less Rockets squad. The game tips off at 7:00 C.T. Look for a preview tomorrow, and a recap following the tilt.