Led by Love, Ridnour, Wolves notch first back-to-back wins since March
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MINNEAPOLIS -- It had been 295 days between victories for the Minnesota Timberwolves before they beat Dallas Monday night. They only waited a shade over 24-hours to notch their next, a 106-96 runaway win over the San Antonio Spurs.
It was a relatively easy victory for the Wolves, who enjoyed a comfortable lead over the Spurs for the majority of the game and didn't have to sweat much in the fourth quarter to beat a team that has gotten the best of them 21 of their past 22 meetings, including the past eight at Target Center.
"I told them 'You're not satisfied with last night's (victory over Dallas), you have to build off of it,'" coach Rick Adelman said.
"To get on a run at home, it is just going to help you in the long run," Luke Ridnour said. "Two be able to win two in a row against Dallas and San Antonio for this team is huge.
The key to the victory was the ball movement and passing that was rarely seen the past two seasons under Kurt Rambis.
"We played as a team and when we play like that, at home especially, it is going to be hard to beat us," Ricky Rubio said. "We realize when we share the ball we can play well and win some games."
The Spurs scored the first seven points of the game and the Wolves appeared sluggish after beating the defending world champions the night before. But the Wolves fired back on offense, ending the quarter on an 35-18 run and taking a seven-point lead to the bench.
Love continued to establish himself as a legitimate three-point threat, connecting on 3-of-4 attempts in the first quarter alone, a night after hitting 5-of-6 from distance. The All-Star continues to effortlessly pile up the stats, putting together his 57th career 20-point, 10-rebound game, totaling 24 points and 15 rebounds on 8-of-15 shooting. He also added three assists and two blocks but did turn the ball over six times.
"He is amazing," Rubio said. "He is one of the best teammates I have ever had and I love playing with him."
The Wolves took a seven-point lead into the locker room with a season-high 60 first-half points on 67% shooting and didn't let up when they came back on the floor.
The three-point barrage continued as the Wolves shot a 66% from behind the arc in the third quarter and the route was officially on, leading the usually defensive-minded Spurs by as many as 17-points.
The Spurs were shorthanded in the second-half after x-rays showed Manu Ginobili had a broken hand after leaving in the second-quarter in a great deal of pain.
The fourth quarter once again belonged to Ricky Rubio, who traded point guard duties with Luke Ridnour while the two shared the court together. Rubio has now played every minute of the fourth quarter in all five games.
Rubio didn't have the big numbers he did against the Mavericks but once again ran the point with steady confidence. He finished with six points on 3-of-8 shooting and three assists.
Rubio did make one spectacular play, rushing down the court after a Love turnover to block a shot out of bounds into about the tenth row.
Love joked after the game that he turned the ball over on purpose so Rubio could have his "welcome to the NBA moment."
"I am just glad he bailed me out on that," Love then admitted.
Ridnour, however, did have the numbers, playing by far his best game of the season and officially ending any discussion that the veteran might be an expendable asset with the addition of Barea.
He scored 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting and had a team-high nine assists in 36 minutes of court time.
"He was terrific," Adelman said. "Really solid the whole game. I like having two point guards on the floor at the same time.
Wesley Johnson had a much-needed solid game after looking like his time in the starting lineup might be over just four games into his sophomore season.
Johnson scored a season-high 14 points on 6-of-6 shooting in 30 minutes. He also added two rebounds and an assist.
"It's good to see him hit those," Ridnour said. "He is a great shooter so he got those looks and knocked him down. He is going to have a great career, great season."
The Wolves built a seven-point first quarter lead and never really looked back. Outplaying the aging Spurs for their second win in as many days.
87.5: Shooting percentage (7-of-8) from behind the arc in the first half for the Wolves.
0: Minutes for Anthony Randolph who Adelman has said needs to bring more consistency to his game.
5: Stitches for Michael Beasley on the index finger of his shooting hand. Beasley played through pain and scored 19 points on an improved 8-of-15 shooting.
Barea sat out Monday's game after his hamstring didn't respond well to playing 17 minutes the night before against the Dallas Mavericks, his former team.
"(It's still) sore," Barea said. "Not like I wanted but just go day-to-day and be patient with it now and just make sure it is ready for next time I play basketball."
Barea said he will continue getting treatment on the hamstring pull -- the first of his career -- and will be held out of practice on Tuesday.
Barea nor Adelman were able to put any sort of timetable on his return, hamstrings have a tendancy to longer with players.
One of the biggest elements of Brea's game is his quickness and speed, and that can't be utilized until the hamstring has completely healed.
Praise for Rubio
Four games into his rookie season and Rubio has put up some impressive fourth quarter numbers despite still not making an appearance in the starting lineup.
Heading into Monday's game, Rubio has played all 48 fourth-quarter minutes, scored 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting from the field and 5-of-7 from three, grabbed nine rebounds and dished 14 assists.
"I have thrown him out there in the fourth quarter in all four games and he certainly hasn't embarrassed himself," Adelman said, understating the importance of the rookie.
The key number in Rubio's impressive stats is his 57% shooting percentage. The perceived rap on him coming from Spain was that he couldn't shoot the ball -- something he worked hard on to prove people wrong about.
"The thing I have been really pleased with is that he makes open shots. He has really worked at that, you can see when he shoots it," Adelman said.
Rubio said he spent the extended off-season working on his shooting and it has paid off. He and fellow rookie Williams compete against each other in 3-point shooting contests after practice.
There has been no shortage of hype for Rubio this season, bred from the two-years fans had to wait for him while he played out his contract at F.C. Bareclona.
But Adelman said the only person not buying into the Rubio hype is Rubio himself, which must be difficult to do with the fans inside Target Centerchanting his name before he even enters the game.
"The thing I like about him is that with all the hype he has had to take, it doesn't really affect him. He is a great kid. He wants to learn how to play, he seems to take the good and the bad with a very even keel. I think he has a chance to be a really good player in this league," Adelman said.
"I am coming to your house. You better have something cooked for me," Beasley to Love in a very jubilant locker room after the game.
The Wolves will hold an optional practice Tuesday after back-to-back games. Adelman said half-jokingly that making the practice optional is good for their spirits and that most of them will end up coming in and doing work anyway.
The team stays home and takes on the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday and Friday of this week.
From there, they finally hit the road for back-to-back games next Sunday and Monday at the Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors.