Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 11/10/12
MINNEAPOLIS -- While this NBA season is still early, it is becoming clear that the Minnesota Timberwolves may no longer be a Western Conference basement dweller. They keep finding ways to win games. On Monday night, Minnesota rallied from a 22-point deficit to win at New Jersey. The Timberwolves followed that up Friday night by turning a game that appeared destined for overtime into a 96-94 victory over the Indiana Pacers. That's because Minnesota's Chase Budinger caught the Indiana defense napping. With less than a second left, Budinger cut hard to the basket without the ball. Andrei Kirilenko found Budinger for an easy game-winning layup that keeps the Timberwolves atop the Northwest Division. "The whole play was set up for A.K.," Budinger said. "My running up to the top of the key was just trying to create a little diversion. I waited there. I saw A.K. get the ball and about to shoot the turnaround jumper. I just tried to sprint down and look for a tip in or something like that. I cut and my man just fell asleep. "A.K. has such great vision and he saw me right underneath the basket and made a great pass and I was able to get the layup in." A three-game winning streak and a 4-1 start to the season isn't that big of an accomplishment for a lot of NBA franchises, but the Wolves have struggled for the better part of a decade. It is the team's best start since going 6-0 in 2001-02. It is also the first time that Minnesota has been three games above .500 since they were 20-17 midway through the 2006-07 season. And the Timberwolves have done this with their two best players -- power forward Kevin Love and point guard Ricky Rubio -- watching from the bench because of injuries. The loss was the third in a row on the road for the Pacers and the second in a row that they felt they should have won. "Our margin for error is very small," Indiana coach Frank Vogel said. "We've got young and inexperienced players in there at crunch time. We dropped a couple of games because of it. That's what we're trying to overcome without Danny Granger." Pacers wing Gerald Green was especially disappointed after the game. He was the guy who was defending Budinger. "I lost vision of my own man, a careless mistake," Green said. "I don't know what to say. I get paid too much to make that kind of mistake." Indiana's George Hill (game-high 29 points) did everything he could to help the Pacers (2-4) end their road trip with a victory. Every time the Timberwolves appeared on the verge of putting the game away in the final two minutes, Hill made a play. After Alexy Shved's layup gave Minnesota a 90-86 lead with 2:24 to play, Hill answered with a 20-foot jumper. When Dante Cunningham hit a jumper to put the Wolves up six with 40 seconds to play, Hill hit a 13-footer, was fouled and completed the three-point play that got the Pacers within 94-91. And after Minnesota's Nikola Pekovic missed a contested, but very makeable layup, Hill hit a 25-footer to tie the game, 94-94. "We're there at the end of the game and that's the good part," Hill said. "There's no use in hanging our head now, there's 75 games left in the season, but we have to learn how to finish games." David West added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Indiana while Paul George (11) and Roy Hibbert (10) reached double figures. "It was still a great win for us," Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. "We should have never fouled them on the and-1 play. It's the last thing we want to do is foul any two-point shooter. We did it. Then the kid made a great three to tie it. But a great win for our team." Williams, the second pick in the 2011 draft, finished with a season high 15 points. After failing to reach double figures in any of Minnesota's first three games, Williams has hit double digits in consecutive games. Budinger, acquired by Minnesota in a trade with Houston just prior to the 2012 draft, took advantage of extended playing time and also finished with a season high (18). Budinger played extended second-half minutes because Brandon Roy was injured. Roy didn't play after halftime for Minnesota because of a sore right knee. Roy is attempting a comeback this season after retiring because of chronic knee injuries. Roy played 15 minutes against the Pacers, scoring six points on 3-for-5 shooting. He had played at least 21 minutes in each of the Wolves' first four games, averaging 5.8 points per game. Roy is expected to travel with the team on its upcoming road trip, but it is unclear how the knee will respond on Saturday. Roy tweaked the same knee last week. NOTES: Indiana associate head coach Brian Shaw interviewed for the Lakers head coach position when Mike Brown was hired in the summer of 2011. Shaw would not comment to The Indianapolis Star when asked Friday if he was interested in the position after Brown was fired. ... Timberwolves guard J.J. Berea missed Friday's game because of a sprained left foot suffered in Wednesday's win over Orlando. He will miss Saturday's game at Chicago and he will be evaluated prior to Monday's game at Dallas. ... The Pacers will play only their second home game of the season Saturday night when they host Washington. Indiana will play eight of their first 12 games this season on the road.
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