J.J. Barea celebrated after he hit one of his three-pointers late in the game.
Marlin Levison, Dml - Star Tribune
WOLVES 99, OKLAHOMA CITY 93
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Barea's burst helps Wolves halt Thunder's win streak
- Article by: JERRY ZGODA
- Star Tribune
- December 21, 2012 - 2:31 PM
The smallest player on the court delivered the Timberwolves' biggest victory yet this season Thursday night, a 99-93 decision before a national television audience over an Oklahoma City team that hadn't lost since the day after Thanksgiving.
The Wolves ended the Thunder's 12-game winning streak by leading from opening tip until final buzzer at Target Center, and every time you expected the visitors would somehow, someway make it 13 straight, Wolves guard J.J. Barea stood tall.
All 5-9 of him.
Barea scored 14 of his 18 points off the bench in a fourth quarter when Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook tried to will their team to victory, just like they did in last March's memorable 149-140 double-overtime victory in Oklahoma City.
Barea got a game ball that he still has at home for recording his first NBA triple-double in that game, even though his team lost.
He probably won't get one for an 18-point, four-rebound, two-assist performance in a game his team won.
"He should," teammate Kevin Love said.
Barea repelled a Thunder team that had won in Atlanta the night before by scoring 12 consecutive Wolves points in the fourth quarter.
Included in that stretch was an 8-0 Wolves run after the Thunder chopped a 14-point, first-quarter deficit down to just a point less than three minutes into the fourth quarter.
Barea made three three-pointers in that four-minute stretch -- the first as the shot clock expired, the last a 28-foot heave -- when the Wolves turned a 76-75 lead back into an 92-81 bulge with 5:26 left that for all purposes decided the game.
"I love it, especially when we need a little energy," Barea said about filling the same sort of role that helped Dallas win the 2011 NBA title. "I'm glad I was able to provide it tonight."
Barea followed that shooting exhibition by getting in Durant's way and drawing a charge call with three minutes left that vexed the MVP candidate and caused him to slam the ball to the floor in an uncharacteristic expression that produced a technical foul.
"J.J. is not afraid," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said.
Barea's fourth-quarter bravado allowed the Wolves to escape the fate that befell them twice in Florida already this week, when they let strong first-half performances fade away into defeats at Orlando and Miami.
This time, they moved the ball exquisitely in a first half when they recorded assists on 20 of their 22 made field goals. By then, Nikola Pekovic already had 18 of his 24 points and Alexey Shved already had eight of his career-high 12 assists.
And then the Wolves kept right on going, outlasting a team that hadn't lost since a 108-100 defeat at Boston on Nov. 23.
"It's not the end of the world," Durant said on the second-to-last day on the Mayan calendar. "A lot of people said the world is going to end today, tomorrow, but it's not the end of the world."
The Thunder's 12-game streak was their longest since the franchise moved from Seattle in 2008, and two games shy of the franchise record set by the SuperSonics in 1996.
"Thirteen is a bad number, see," said Wolves forward Andrei Kirilenko, who shadowed Durant all night and limited him to a mere 33 points.
The Thunder now is only 21-5. The Wolves remained above .500, improving to 13-11. Most importantly, Thursday's game, against the West's best, was the kind they need to win if they intend to reach the playoffs and then actually do something once they get there.
"It's important, but I'd like to see us get to the point where this is not a big deal," Adelman said. "It's a big game against the best team, but this is something we can do. I really felt we had a great chance to win this game tonight."
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