Found December 20, 2012 on Fox Sports North:
Love2
MINNEAPOLIS When the buzzer sounded on the Minnesota Timberwolves' 99-93 win over Oklahoma City on Thursday, the Thunder's 12-game winning streak was snapped. It was the longest such streak since the Thunder became the Thunder, and when it died, so too did OKC's stretch of the same length of wins over Minnesota. Done and done. To blink and wonder if that really happened would not have been an outlandish response.The anatomy of Minnesota's upset begins with a typical night from Kevin Love. The Wolves power forward finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. Love was helped out by center Nikola Pekovic, who added 24 points and 10 boards. The anatomy of an upset also begins with a hearty dose of jealousy, sprinkled with just a hint of Rick Adelman's signature astonishment. "I get a little envious of (Thunder coach) Scott (Brooks)," the Timberwolves coach admitted pregame. Of course, Adelman would envy Brooks. Until Thursday, when Thunder shooting guard Kevin Martin sat with a right quad contusion, OKC's top eight players had yet to miss a game. Through the season, so far, the Thunder had just one starting lineup compared to the Timberwolves' nine.Envious was an understatement.Earlier in the day, there was the bad news about a torn ACL, Josh Howard's, and perhaps the end of a career. The Timberwolves announced pregame they had waived the forward after learning about the injury. So, there was talk of jinxes and curses and other such superstitions.Meanwhile, the Timberwolves opened with a 25-11 run, a spurt which included two 3-pointers from Love and one from Alexey Shved the league's worst long-range shooting team was 3-of-5 from beyond the arc. Minnesota has been chucking those 3-pointers, with the coach's firm belief that the shots would eventually fall. Before the game, Adelman, who has been around long enough and seen his share of improbable struggles, jokingly speculated about injured Chase Budinger's chances of sinking perimeter shots while on crutches.At this point, after this many injuries, it has to be funny. Otherwise Adelman would have long gone insane. On Thursday, he was rewarded as the Timberwolves went 9-of-20 from long range, enough for the coach to breathe a bit easier, at least for a moment."I told the (assistant) coaches to frame this one," Adelman said, nodding at his box score. "Nine for 20, that's like a dream for us."But a hot start won't beat the Thunder. A hot start doesn't trip up Kevin Durant, who finished with 33 points, or Russell Westbrook, who was one assist short of a triple-double, finished with 30 points and 11 rebounds. Those statistics build streaks. They build 21-5 records, and the Timberwolves had to play out of their minds for 48 minutes to defeat the Thunder.The shooting built the chance, giving the Timberwolves a big enough lead they might be able to hold. So did Andrei Kirilenko's defense, his handling of Durant to the extent that the Thunder star can be handled and the team's overall fluid passing throughout the first two quarters. It took the best half of Minnesota's season to even entertain the idea of a looming win, and it took none other than J.J. Barea to wrap it up.Yes, J.J. Barea, of the 5-10 variety, of the stitches over his right eye and propensity to not quite see the magnitude of what he's up against. On an individual scale, that can be dangerous. That's how he gets those stitches and sprains. But on this stage, it was just what the Timberwolves needed.In the fourth quarter, with the Wolves clinging to an 80-77 lead, Barea drained a 3-pointer 83-77. Forty seconds later, a Barea layup 85-77. A minute after that, another 3 88-77. Barea had just completed a personal 8-0 run. He was out there with the big boys, with Durant and Westbrook and Serge Ibaka (14 points, nine rebounds). Barea was weaseling his way through their reach like only Barea weasels, taking charges, pitching and lurching his way through the game's final moments."I love it," Barea said. "I love it. We just needed a little bit more tonight, a little energy, and I'm glad I was able to provide that.""I've almost got to hold myself back a little bit (scoring). I think I did a good job of just picking my spots, and I let the shots come to me."An upset of the Timberwolves variety ends a bit awkwardly. They're not used to dribbling around and killing time after rendering the foul game useless. It's not quite pretty or magnificent yet, and on Thursday, it even involved a traveling call on Dante Cunningham.The Timberwolves handle near triple-doubles from Love with grace. They're even learning to handle 20-point nights from Pekovic. They're becoming more expected, part of the fiber of the team. But wins over the Thunder, those don't yet end so gracefully, and that's just fine for now. ... Someday, though, they'll have to. While the Thunder, after the game, claimed how they're not concerned with the streak, how they didn't get over the hump and how they'll move on, the conversation among the Timberwolves was of a different magnitude.This was not just a blip for the Wolves. They'll remember this one. This could be a victory to build on, a point of pride, a source of motivation. But someday, though, it'll have to become normal. Maybe not to snap a streak like this one, maybe not when they're so short-handed, maybe not after what Love called a six-month "hellish battle of attrition." But to get anywhere, wins like this will have to become believable, if not quite mundane."Hopefully we'll come to a point where these type of wins against these type of teams will just be another game," Love said.The upset closes with an excited Timberwolves locker room, but maybe not as excited as one might imagine. Somehow, these players aren't so utterly floored. It closes with a coach, Adelman, admitting he had entertained the idea of this happening. It closes with the Thunder off to prepare for their Christmas Day matchup against Miami and with a big, cardboard box wedged in the locker next to Love's, the one that 24 hours ago belonged to Howard.The pecking order of the NBA has not been altered. The Timberwolves' problems of injury and inaccuracy have not been erased. But Love is smiling a grin bigger than anyone's seen all season, and in Minnesota, there's a tiny bit more of a reason to believe. FollowJoan Niesen onTwitter.
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