The Timberwolves shot 42 percent from the field in their opener Wednesday. They let a fourth-quarter lead evaporate into a three-point deficit late in regulation. They looked disjointed on defense at times.
But they still won. Yes, it was an overtime win against a mediocre Orlando team playing the second night of a back-to-back, but it was a much-needed victory. It was also a win that would not have come in that fashion a year ago because the Wolves lacked these things:
1) A healthy Kevin Love. Even when Love was on the court for his 18 games last season, he was not himself. He made just 21.7 percent of his three-point attempts a season ago, still bothered by his hand. A healthy Kevin Love knocks down a wide open three-pointer a good 50 percent of the time. Love last year knocks it down a quarter to a third of the time. That's a big difference when Love is shooting a game-tying three in the closing seconds to send a game into OT, as he did Wednesday.
2) A shooting guard who can take a game over. Kevin Martin was just 6 of 19 from the field and will certainly have better shooting nights in a Wolves uniform. But he was a perfect 9 of 9 from the free throw line and scored 7 of his 23 points on overtime as the Wolves pulled away. We'll say it again: Best shooting guard in franchise history after just one game.
3) A lockdown wing defender. Arron Afflalo tried to play hero ball at the end of regulation, holding the ball until the final seconds before trying to attack Corey Brewer for the game-winning shot. Brewer stuck with him through the full move, got a hand in his face on a fadeaway and watched it come up short on the rim. Andrei Kirilenko was great on D last year, but he was better guarding 3s and 4s and in help defense than in locking down a wing. (Also: Who bet money on Brewer being the only starter to shoot over 50 percent in the opener?)
4) Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio and Love shared the court for fewer than 15 minutes last season. Just having all three in the lineup and on the floor together is huge.