Wolves snap 18-game, 295-day losing streak with runaway win over Mavs
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Losers of three straight by a combined nine points to open the season, the Minnesota Timberwolves finally got over the hump on Sunday in a 99-82 win over the world champion Dallas Mavericks.
It was their first win in 295 days dating back to March 11, snapping an 18-game losing streak.
"I just said a minute ago, I haven't felt that feeling in a long time, coming off the court with more points than the other team," said Anthony Tolliver, a holdover from last season's 17-win team.
Said Kevin Love, "We are the best team in 2012."
The Wolves held a nine-point lead midway through the final quarter before Dirk Nowitzki obliterated it with seven straight points, shaking off the rust from a difficult first three quarters.
"I told the guys, 'It is coming, the run is coming,'" former Maverick J.J. Barea said. "You just have to keep fighting and answer back, and I think we answered back (Sunday)."
But Love answered right back with consecutive 3-pointers of his own, putting the lead back at eight points. The Wolves never looked back, building a 16-point lead with 2:08 remaining in the game and ending on a 15-0 run.
"Obviously, really happy to get a win," coach Rick Adelman said. "They've worked hard and stayed with it all this time since we started. We responded against a very good team (Sunday)."
Neither team played particularly well in a first half marred with turnovers and low shooting percentages. The Wolves shot 37.5% from the field and the Mavericks weren't much better at 40%. The teams combined for 17 turnovers.
In a somewhat rare statistical anomaly, no player on either team scored in double-figures in the first half. The Wolves closed the half on a 13-2 run to take a 50-41 lead into the locker room, then picked up where they left off in the third quarter, opening up a 10-4 run.
The Mavs fired back with a 10-0 run to shrink a 15-point deficit to five, where the Wolves' lead remained entering the fourth quarter.
Rookie Ricky Rubio again came off the bench -- Adelman stressed that he sees that continuing for the near future -- but once again was the point guard down the stretch. He scored the first five points of the fourth quarter, including a step-back 3-pointer that lit the 15,115 fans inside Target Center on fire.
Rubio provided a spark and jolt of creativity when he was on the floor. At one point during the fourth-quarter run, he threw a pass between Notizki's legs to an open Tolliver who knocked down the three-pointer.
"I told (Rubio), I know I am getting used to playing with you when I actually expected him to bounce pass between Dirk's legs to me in the corner," Tolliver said about the play. "That's why I was so ready for the shot and he made it perfectly and hit me right in the hands."
Love put up 25 points and 17 rebounds, shooting 9-of-16 from the field, including a blistering 5-of-6 from behind the arc.
Veteran point guard Luke Ridnour joined Rubio on the court in the final minutes closing out the game and scoring 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting.
"I thought Luke played really solid," Adelman said. "With J.J. out (in the fourth quarter), I wanted (Ridnour) and Ricky to finish the game and stabilize us a little bit. Those two guys have played well together. It was a good combination to have."
Barea played 16 minutes off the bench after missing Friday's game against the Heat with a hamstring injury. He scored eight points but the training staff decided it was best to end his night in the fourth quarter.
"I am all right," Barea said, admitting frustration. "Not there yet. I need to be explosive, I need to be quick to be on my best and I am not there yet. I am kind of frustrated with that."
Asked if he'll play on Monday against San Antonio, Barea said, "See how it feels tomorrow."
Tolliver gave the Wolves 25 solid minutes off the bench, playing great defense on Nowitizki and scoring 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting and grabbing six rebounds.
"He's played very well," Adelman said. "He defends really well. We can put him on a lot of different people. He's got the ability to space the court."
Michael Beasley struggled for a second straight contest, shooting just 3-of-10 and scoring eight points.
Adelman did, however, play Beasley in the fourth quarter after the 22-year-old sat most of the third quarter and the entire fourth quarter against Miami. Beasley had to leave the game when he got a cut on his index finger and got stitches afterwards.
"Probably going to keep me from shooting," Beasley said, " but it's probably best if I don't shoot right now."
Wesley Johnson got his third consecutive start, but it is now fair to wonder who much longer that will last. He played only 13 minutes.
Anthony Randolph got another extended look off the bench but didn't deliver a similar performance to Friday, when he scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting in 24 minutes.
Randolph reverted back to his previous poor form -- scoring four points on 1-of-6 shooting, turning the ball over three times and managing to get a technical foul after Dallas was called for a foul and got a Love tip-in disallowed for pulling the rim down.
Nowitzki appeared to be turning into superstar mode when he scored seven-straight points to cut the Wolves lead to two. But rather than backing down and letting him take over, the Wolves countered with some punches of their own to get their first win of the season in double-digit fashion.
0: Players in double-figures scoring in the first half. The closest was, believe it or not, Darko, who put up seven points in the first two frames.
.333: Shooting percentage by Beasley. Adelman said before the game they were searching for ways to find Beasley more shots he is comfortable with.
46: Points from the bench in their second-consecutive strong game. The Wolves got 57 points off the bench in last Friday's game against the Heat. 18: Game losing streak dating back to last season was snapped with the win.
• Barea (hamstring) returned to face his former team after missing Friday's loss to the Miami Heat. He checked into the game with 4:08 remaining in the first quarter. He was a game-time decision after warming up and deciding he was good to go. This was the first hamstring injury of the veteran's career.
• C Nikola Pekovic was also available for Sunday's game after missing the two weeks with a strained left abductor.
Barea faces former team
Barea was an integral part of the Mavericks' six-game NBA Finals victory over the Heat a year ago, so it's no surprise Dallas coach Rick Carlisle had nothing but good things to say about the newest Wolf.
"J.J. is a terrific player," Carlisle said. "Over five years with the Mavericks, (Barea) really proved himself. It wasn't just what he provided in terms of his skill, points and all that -- he brought real grit and guts to the team.
"While I'm very happy for him that he got himself a great contract, it's tough. It's tough seeing him leave and it's going to be even tougher playing against him."
Barea has fit in well in Minnesota, providing a spark off the bench and playing the two-guard at times while Rubio is on the court.
"He's probably the NBA's most effective 5-10 shooting guard, really," Carlisle said. "He's proven that over the last three years, and he's doing it again here. That's one of the reasons they gave him the offer they did is because he's shown what he's able to do, playing a little bit of an unconventional position as a smaller guy.
"But when you do it in the finals and do it in the biggest stage, that's special. He's very deserving of the deal he got here and he's going to help this organization a lot."
Barea admitted it was odd facing his old teammates but he said he enjoyed being out there.
"It felt good to beat my old teammates, I am not going to lie," he said.
"Hey! J.J., you're on my fantasy basketball team!"
-- Intoxicated fan to Barea while he warmed up his tight hamstring on an exercise bike behind the bench. Barea gave the fan a smile but clearly wasn't amused.
The schedule has to get easier after playing both NBA Finals representatives from a year ago, right? Nope. Not yet, at least. No rest for the weary, as the Wolves are right back at it on Monday night playing host to the Spurs. From there, they get Tuesday off before welcoming in the Memphis Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers later this week.