MINNEAPOLIS The last time the Timberwolves were .500 or better this late in the season was in 2006-07, when Minnesota was 22-22.
To put it into perspective, Kevin Garnett was still a Timberwolf, not a Celtic. Kevin Love, currently the longest-tenured Wolves player on the Wolves' roster, was a senior at Lake Oswego High School in Oregon.
Indeed, it's been a long five years for the Timberwolves. But Saturday's 100-91 win over visiting Houston was yet another sign that this franchise is finally making progress.
The victory brought Love and Minnesota to 12-12 on the season as it reached the .500 mark for the first time all year. Still, this young Wolves team isn't satisfied just yet.
"We're happy to be at .500, but we've got to keep this thing going in the right direction," Love said.
It was the fifth chance this season Minnesota had to improve to .500. The first four times -- at 2-3, 7-8, 9-10 and 10-11 -- were followed with losses. But the Wolves took control early Saturday and held on the rest of the way, bucking a trend of some of their previous defeats in which leads vanished down the stretch.
"We were like four times in that option to get the .500," said rookie point guard Ricky Rubio, who had a double-double with 13 points and 11 assists. "We played good 48 minutes and we get that win to make us .500."
Minnesota led 33-25 after the first quarter and 55-42 at the half. Houston cut the Wolves' lead to as little as three with 6:37 to play in the fourth. But Minnesota used late 3-pointers from guard Luke Ridnour and Love to put the game out of reach and finally, after four failed attempts, get to .500.
Ridnour was a big reason why, as he had 22 points and shot 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
"He was terrific tonight," said Wolves head coach Rick Adelman. "Luke's a knock-down shooter. (Friday) night (against New Jersey) was a great example. He struggled during the game with his shot and then made the big 3 when we needed it. That's who he is: just a solid, solid player."
Adelman, in his first year as Minnesota's coach, was asked after the game if he knew just how long it had been since the Wolves had reached the .500 mark at this juncture in the season.
Five years, coach.
"Oh, it has? I didn't know that," Adelman said. "I know that it has been all year for us. I think it's our guys, they're locked in and they want to get better. What we haven't done is been able to beat teams consistently here, and we've got to do that."
Love, in his fourth season with Minnesota after being drafted fifth overall in 2008, hasn't seen this kind of team success in the NBA. Last year's Wolves won just 17 games all season, but last year Love wasn't averaging 25.0 points a game.
On Saturday, he had 25 points and 18 rebounds. Like many teams, Houston never seemed to find an answer for Minnesota's star forward.
"If our team is moving the ball and the ball is being moved around, he's going to get up his shots -- like any good player would do," Adelman said of Love. "If we get stagnant with the ball, then they can play around him differently and take the ball out of his hands."
Love had joked earlier that he would shave his now-unkempt beard if and when the Timberwolves got to .500. Well, here they are.
Is the beard staying?
"I don't know," Love said after the game. "(Houston assistant coach) J.B. Bickerstaff was giving me some grief about it down there on the bench. Everybody keeps talking about it, so I kind of want to keep it. It's something that people want to talk about."
Beard or no beard, Love and Minnesota now have a chance to post a winning record for the first time in a long time. The Wolves' first attempt will come Tuesday when they host the Sacramento Kings, a team Minnesota has already defeated this season.
A Timberwolves team with a winning record? It hasn't happened much lately in these parts. But this year's squad is determined to change that.
"We try to get on the winning side. Any time you can get even, I think we're 12-12, we've got a lot of talent here," said guard J.J. Barea, who joined Minnesota this offseason. "We can keep it going. We're going to try to keep winning."
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.