Love's 31 points, Rubio's 12 assists help spoil Dallas' ring ceremony
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The Minnesota Timberwolves only needed nine healthy players to beat the Dallas Mavericks for a second time this season in Wednesday's 105-90 win at the American Airlines Center.
It was an emotional game for both locker rooms. Kevin Love received a 4-year $62 million contract hours earlier in the day, and the Mavericks -- including J.J. Barea -- received their championship rings from last season.
A letdown was coming for one of the two teams but it was the champs -- without superstar Dirk Nowitzki -- that were the ones laying the egg on their home court to a shorthanded Wolves squad that was more than happy to play the role of spoiler.
The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the first half but the Wolves went on a 21-4 run to end the first half and start the third quarter to take a lead in the second-half that they would never let go of.
The $62 million man was the star of the night, scoring 31 points on 8 of 15 shooting from the field and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The win puts the Wolves at 8-10 to start the season. To add some perspective, Wolves eighth victory of last season put them at 8-24.
As if the Wolves weren't banged up enough through 17 games this season, coach Rick Adelman was without yet another body in Wednesday's game.
Luke Ridnour wasn't available because of soreness in his knee. Wesley Johnson, however, was available after missing Monday's game with an illness, putting the compliment of players available to Adelman back at nine for a second-straight game.
The absence of Ridnour meant Ricky Rubio was the only available point guard and he was run ragged, playing a career-high 46 minutes. The rookie once again flirted with a triple-double, scoring 17 points, dishing 12 assists and grabbing 10 rebounds. He also added four steals but had seven turnovers.
Rubio's only rest came when he was pulled with 1:33 left in the third quarter -- making way for Wayne Ellington to run the point on a night where he got his fourth start of the season.
Ellington navigated the offense as the emergency point guard for those 90 seconds, penetrating to the hoop on the final possession of the quarter, making the layup and getting the foul. He converted the three-point play to give the Wolves a 78-72 lead heading into the final frame.
Ellington's game overall was another positive for the third-year guard from North Carolina. He scored 16 points -- two shy of his career-high -- and grabbed four rebounds and added three assists.
Johnson shaking off his illness to give the Wolves 17-minutes of run -- and a ninth player -- played a big part in the win. He scored only five points and grabbed four rebounds, but he helped keep the starters fresh just two nights after the Wolves ran out of steam in a loss to Houston at Target Center.
The Wolves outscored the Mavericks 53-36 in a second-half that they easily kept the defending World Champions at bay.
7: Blocks for Darko Milicic, a season-high.
23: More free throws for the Wolves who got to the line 33 times to the Mavericks' 10.
13: Points for Nikola Pekovic off the bench on 4 of 5 shooting.
At this point, 18 games into the season, the injury report is just as important, if not more, than what takes place in between the lines for 48 minutes. The Wolves will soon run out of gas -- if they haven't started to already -- unless they can get some live bodies on the court. No matter how good Love and Rubio are, they cannot do it themselves.
Ridnour was the latest casualty to the bench where he donned a sport coat with the rest of his injured associates. After sitting out practice Tuesday for what were believed to be precautionary reasons, but the veteran sat out Wednesdays game after the soreness in his knee didn't go away in time to play. He is day-to-day, according to Wolves PR.
Barea traveled with the team simply so he could receive his championship ring for his contributions to the 2010-11 Mavericks team. He was honored before the game started but, as expected, was inactive for his fourth straight game and seventh of the past eight with the nagging hamstring injury.
The training staff is being even more cautious with Barea this time around and will likely hold him out through the weekend so the five-year veteran can get back on the court to stay.
Martell Webster will undergo one final test on his back tomorrow before he hopes to make his 2011-12 debut Friday against the San Antonio Spurs.
Webster said he isn't concerned about the test and made it sound like it was simply a formality when he met with reporters Tuesday at practice.
Along with Miller, Thursday will be a big practice day for Brad Miller. The veteran is coming off of microfracture surgery and returned to practice last week but has yet to play. Adelman said on Tuesday he is looking to get another practice in Miller before making a decision whether or not he is ready to play this weekend.
Michael Beasley remains out with the mid-foot sprain he suffered Jan. 6 and has missed the past 11 games. Beasley said Wednesday night before 107-92 loss to the Houston Rockets that he has resumed all aspects of practicing with the exception of contact. He says he still feels pain when he cuts or makes sudden movement. It sounds like he will also be held out over the weekend with a possible return early next week.
The Wolves flew back to the Twin Cities where they will sleep in their own bends, wake up, meet for practice and reassess who is able-bodied.
The Wolves return to the court on Friday for a rematch with the San Antonio Spurs (11-7) after vanquishing the veterans earlier in January 106-96.
They get another day off Saturday before facing Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers (10-8) Sunday night at Target Center in their first meeting of the season.