Timberwolves end 18-game skid

Published 2:51 pm Monday, January 2, 2012

MINNEAPOLIS  — Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves went 294 days between victories, a long and miserable stretch that included 18 straight defeats and a mind-numbing lockout.

The way they are playing in this young season, the wait for the next win will be much, much shorter.

Love had 25 points and 17 rebounds and hit two huge 3s in the fourth quarter to help the Minnesota Timberwolves beat the Dallas Mavericks 99-82 on Sunday night.

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“It’s a new year,” said Love, who hit 5 of 6 from 3-point range. “We’re the best team in 2012 right now. We feel good. We’ve got the monkey off our back.”

A team that had grown so used to fading in fourth quarters over the last two years has never looked stronger in the final period. They closed the game with a 15-0 run to bury the reeling NBA champions.

Ricky Rubio added 14 points and seven assists and Luke Ridnour scored 11 for the Timberwolves (1-3), who were winners for the first time under new coach Rick Adelman.

“Man I haven’t felt that feeling in a long time, to come off the court with more points than the other team,” said forward Anthony Tolliver, who scored 13 and played solid defense on Dirk Nowitzki.

Nowitzki scored 21 points on 9 for 20 shooting, but the defending champions have looked slow and sloppy in starting the season 1-4.

The Mavericks turned the ball over 17 times and Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Lamar Odom combined to shoot 7 for 23.

“We have to get better tomorrow and keep moving,” Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said. “Try to get ourselves back moving in the right direction.”

Minnesota lost its first three games of this season by a combined nine points, including nail-biters at home to heavyweights Oklahoma City and Miami. This one looked to be another tight game as well when Nowitzki scored seven straight points during a 10-0 run to make it 84-82 with just over five minutes to play.

But Love hit two straight 3s, including a step-back over Kidd, and Rubio assisted on three straight buckets during an end-of-the-game surge. His last pass was a beauty between Nowitzki’s legs to an open Tolliver in the corner for a 3-pointer and a 98-82 lead.

Adelman pumped his fist after the shot swished through, and the celebration was on.

“I still don’t take credit for those 15 (losses) last year,” Adelman said with a grin. “I had enough trouble with the three we had this year.”

Delonte West was the only other Mavericks starter in double figures with 13 points.

With the Wolves offense stagnant, Rubio scored 12 of the team’s 15 points during a critical five minute stretch bridging the third and fourth quarters. The Spanish kid who supposedly can’t shoot drilled two 3s and scored on a pair of pretty drives, the last giving them an 82-72 lead with nine minutes to play.

Rubio has played all 12 minutes of the fourth quarter of all four games and has made 7 of 10 shots and scored 21 points with 14 assists and nine rebounds in those 48 minutes.

“I worked a lot this summer on shooting jump shots and all the stuff. When you work hard, things (are) coming,” he said.

The Mavericks started the season 0-3 and just picked up their first win against Toronto on Friday.

The team has been slow to come together after losing two of their most vocal and emotional leaders from last year’s championship run — Tyson Chandler and J.J. Barea. Chandler teamed up with Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony in New York, while Barea left one of the most successful franchises in the league for one of the worst.

Replacements Vince Carter, Odom and West are still finding their comfort zone in Dallas and the Mavericks simply haven’t looked like the same tenacious, efficient, balanced team that they were when they upset the Heat in the Finals last season.

Carter was 1 for 7 and the Mavs were pounded on the boards, 54-35, including a 17-6 deficit on the offensive glass.

“We got a lot of new pieces and we’re trying to do this on the run,” Kidd said. “We’re going to make mistakes and we just have to try and get better.”