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The Wolves' Wes Johnson (4) blocked a shot by Dallas' Grendan Haywood.

Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

WOLVES 99, DALLAS 82

Up next: 7 tonight vs. San Antonio • Target Center • No TV (830-AM)

Wolves end 18-game losing streak

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA
  • Star Tribune
  • January 2, 2012 - 9:22 AM

After 294 days and 18 consecutive defeats dating to March 11, the Timberwolves ended a franchise-record losing streak with Sunday's convincing 99-82 victory over Dallas, the defending NBA champion.

Now that didn't take long, did it?

"It's a new year," Wolves forward Kevin Love said afterward. "We're the best team in 2012 right now."

For one night, they clearly were younger, bouncier, better out there on the same floor against a Mavericks team missing three important players -- including Wolves guard J.J. Barea -- from last season's title team.

Leading by 15 points early in the third quarter but ahead by just a bucket with less than six minutes left, the Wolves scored the game's final 15 points and turned Target Center into what it so seldom has been late in games these past several years -- a rollicking party.

They did so with some dashing play and, believe it or not, some daunting defense that held Dirk Nowitzki and Dallas scoreless for the game's final 5:35.

They did so with rookie Ricky Rubio dribbling and dishing, most notably to teammates Anthony Tolliver and Kevin Love for dunks and three-point shots.

Tolliver and Love made four three-pointers -- two each -- in that closing stretch, which turned into a celebration both among an announced crowd of 15,115 fans and on the court where coach Rick Adelman pumped his fists into the air more than once and players flew into each other's arms as the plays, and the points, just kept coming.

Tolliver punctuated that finishing flourish with the last of his team's 10 three-pointers, after Rubio threaded a baseline pass through Nowitzki's legs to him open in the far corner for a 16-point lead that left the crowd delirious with two minutes left.

"I told Ricky I know I'm getting used to playing with him because I actually expected him to bounce pass it through Dirk's legs," Tolliver said. "It felt great, it felt wonderful, it felt like that's how it should be. We've had some really tough losses in this building. We're not over the hump from just one game, but it's something we can build confidence from and go forward from."

When it was over, Love had delivered yet another double-double -- his fourth consecutive to start the season, 25 points and 17 rebounds. He made five of six threes, and afterward, Rubio praised him with two words condensed into one.

"The word that you can say is amazing-unbelievable," Rubio said after a 14-point, seven-assist night when he made two three-pointers himself. "You know that somebody going to shoot. If he miss, he's going to take the rebound. I love to play with him. That's why I have a lot of assists, you know. It's not because of me. It's because of him."

When it was over, Dallas had lost for the fourth time in the season's first five games, and Barea celebrated his new team's first victory after three close season-opening losses, even though he sat the fourth quarter because of a troublesome hamstring injury that limited him to 16 minutes while Rubio and Luke Ridnour played on together.

"It was awesome," said Barea, who wasn't re-signed by the Mavs for salary-cap reasons. "I'm so proud of my team right now. It feels so good to beat your old team. I'm not going to lie."

And when it was over, the Wolves finally had won a game for the first time since beating Utah nine months ago.

"I still take don't credit for those 15 last year," Adelman said about a season-ending 15-game losing streak. "I have enough trouble with the three we have this year."

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