Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Comeback Kids: Wolves win one this way, end 7-game losing streak with 98-97 victory at Cleveland

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves players, Wolves postgame, Wolves news Updated: December 27, 2010 - 1:42 AM

You've seen this before, only in reverse.

This time, the Timberwolves came from 14 behind with less than eight minutes left Sunday night in Cleveland and used a closing 24-9 run to end a seven-game losing streak and a 12-game road losing streak that dates to Nov. 10 at Sacramento.

"You mean our only  other road victory?" Kevin Love asked afterward.

Precisely.

This time they did so with defense -- yes, that's right -- and with Mike Beasley's often neglected right hand.

They won it in a duel between Beasley and Cavs veteran Antawn Jamison, who answered two Kevin Love free throws with 24 seconds left with a running hook shot of his own that regained Cleveland the lead at 97-96 with 10.6 seconds left.

Part of this painful process the Wolves have endured with losing so many double-digit leads is waiting for Beasley to develop into a go-to guy who'll decide games if not necessarily with his scoring but by making plays for other as well.

So far, Beasley has shown little vision to be that playmaker, but maybe he made a step forward tonight, if only because he didn't put his head down once again and go left.

This time, he put his head down and went right, beating Jamison that way and using a spread floor with Love out at the three-point line on that side to score on a layup before the Cavs' defense could recover.

"We've isolated Michael a lot at the elbow," Kurt Rambis said. "He's got to read where the loaded side is, where the open side is, shere the shooters are. We talked about driving to the open side. That's where he was able to score. Those are things he has to learn and go with."

Beasley didn't know what the fuss about using his right hand was about, other than he almost never does so.

"Man, I'm ambidextrous, you don't know?" he said. "Coach was telling me all game, `Go right, they open up the right side for you.' I just decided to listen the last play."

Darko Milicic played less than 18 minutes tonight. Part of that might have been his sprained ankle, most of it was the small lineup that Rambis settled on down the stretch that had Love at center, Beasley, Corey Brewer, Martell Webster or Wes Johnson and either Luke Ridnour or Jonny Flynn.

Rambis said he went with that smallish lineup because of how "active" they were defensively.

Yes, that means even Beasley, who helped forced Jamison into a last-gasp shot that missed in the final second.

"Honestly, it's extra sweet to do it in the defensive end," Beasley said. "Force them into a bad shot and we got the win."

Some other stuff from Sunday night's game:

* Beasley scored 22 of his 28 points in the first half. Only two of those 28 came in the final quarter. And, yes, that's right, they were both on that winning shot with 5.9 seconds left.

 

* Rambis on the late-game duel between Beasley and Jamison at the power-forward spot: "You put the ball in your shot creator's hand and let them try to win ballgames. That’s what most people do."

* No coincidence that the Wolves ended their losing streak with improved point-guard play.

Luke Ridnour made all five threes he attempted, scored a season-high 23 points and had six assists and just one turnover.

Afterward, Rambis praised Ridnour for being more assertive when it mattered most.

"He's getting better at that," Rambis said. "That's something we want him to be more demonstrative about. Take control of the situation in late-game scenarios, where he can create a shot for himself or deliver to somebody else. He's supposed to be the guy who gets the ball up the floor, gets us organized, gets something positive for us to run. I thought he did a really good job."

Rambis also praised Jonny Flynn's 20 minutes (11 points , four assists, one turnover).

"For the first game, for the first extended period of time, I thought Jonny did a really good job, too," Rambis said. "He played really well. Hopefully, he's getting his rhythm back and getting his feel for the game. After missing all of training camp and the start of the season, it's good to see him get his confidence back."

* Love had just two points through three quarters, then had 14 of his 16 points in the game's final 9:09.

He credited Wayne Ellington and Bill Laimbeer for jawing at him to get himself back into the game and told him he was carrying his share of the load.

His 16-point, 18-rebound night extended his double-double streak to 17 games. His last game without a double-double game was that scoreless night against the Lakers at Target Center on Nov. 19.

* Rambis has talked often about how last season didn't count, a business year he calls it and how he considers this the first real year for him and David Kahn.

But did you know?: Tonight's victory only kept these Wolves on pace with last season's Wolves, which also was 7-24 after 31 games.

If this team is going to show that Kahn and Rambis are leading it toward a substantial leap, it better do so in the season's final 51 games, now that they've already played 19 of their 41 road games.

That's all from Cleveland for tonight.

The Wolves flew home Sunday night and play New Orleans and Chris Paul Monday night at Target Center, looking to win consecutive games for only the second time this season.


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