Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 12/20/12
MINNEAPOLIS -- The smallest player on the court helped fell a team of NBA giants Thursday night at Target Center. Guard J.J. Barea scored 14 fourth-quarter points -- including 12 straight Minnesota points at one juncture -- as the Timberwolves earned a 99-93 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was a stunning wire-to-wire victory for Minnesota, which never trailed while ending the Thunder's 12-game winning streak. Not that Oklahoma City, owner of the NBA's best record, didn't come close a few times, even cutting the gap to one early in the fourth quarter. Minnesota got double-doubles from Kevin Love (28 points, 11 rebounds), center Nikola Pekovic (24 points, 10 rebounds) and guard Alexey Shved (12 points, 12 assists). However, it was Barea (18 points) who stole the show -- and the game-- from the Thunder. Minnesota (13-11) led by seven entering the fourth quarter, but Oklahoma City (21-5) made short work of that, opening the fourth quarter with a 6-0 run to pull within one on Reggie Jackson's basket. The Timberwolves pushed their advantage back to five before Thunder forward Kevin Durant (33 points) hit two free throws with 8:56 to play. Then Barea took over. He hit a 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer. He scored in the lane, and then he hit another 3-pointer, a personal 8-0 run that made it 88-77 with less than seven minutes left. After Durant scored, Barea hit one of two free throws. After Durant sank two free throws, Barea hit yet another 3-pointer to push the lead back to 11. Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for Oklahoma City, but he took 28 shots and he committed eight turnovers. Westbrook, Durant and Serge Ibaka scored 77 of their team's 93 points. It was the only game this season in which the Thunder did not have a lead. The Wolves, resilient all night, endured runs of 8-0 and 9-2 by the Thunder in the third quarter. Minnesota never folded, though, hitting just enough free throws down the stretch to keep its distance. With 2:24 left and the Wolves up by nine, Barea got in front of a driving Westbrook, resulting in a charge -- and a technical -- on Westbrook. The Thunder's previous loss was a two-point decision at Boston on Nov. 23. Oklahoma City's 12-game winning streak against Minnesota also ended. NOTES: Minnesota's 13-11 start is the team's best after 24 games since the 2005-06 season. ... It was determined Thursday that Minnesota forward Josh Howard has a torn ACL in his right knee and not a knee hyperextension, as originally suspected, and he was waived by the team. Howard's season is over and -- considering he had ACL surgery in his left knee two years ago, his career is in question. "I feel really bad for him," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "He had worked so hard to get himself back. He was shocked when he found out." Howard, who injured the knee in New Orleans on Dec. 14, was signed Nov. 16. He averaged 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds in 11 games. The Wolves will look to fill the roster spot with a player capable of backing up at both shooting guard and small forward. ... Thunder guard Kevin Martin, a top reserve off the bench, missed his first game this season due to a quad contusion. He is the first player among the Oklahoma City's top players to miss a game; the Thunder has used one starting lineup all season, the Wolves nine. ... Wolves guard Malcolm Lee is still considering treatment options for the torn cartilage in his knee.
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