DALLAS - On the same night Kevin Love signed his new $61 million contract in the locker room in Dallas, Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio seemed to suggest with that twinkle in his eyes and a mischievous grin that just maybe his coach should refund an evening's wages after Wednesday's unlikely 105-90 victory over the Mavericks at American Airlines Center.
"At the beginning of the game we were saying, 'Who is going to start?' and they said the guard starters are easy," Rubio said. "We only have two."
So what kind of coaching is that from a future Hall of Famer who now has won 953 career games?
With Luke Ridnour out healing a sore knee and J.J. Barea and his hamstring in a suit accepting his NBA championship ring during a pregame ceremony that rattled the arena's rafters, Wolves coach Rick Adelman had no choice but to start Rubio and Wayne Ellington in the backcourt and play them to exhaustion.
The Mavericks played with three Kardashian sisters in attendance but without star forward Dirk Nowitzki, who is spending the week conditioning and strengthening his knee.
The Wolves forged on with only 8 1/2 healthy players -- Wes Johnson coming back from a bout with pneumonia counts as the half, and that's probably generous -- and they thumped the defending NBA champions for the second time in as many games this season while Rubio played all but 93 seconds and Love remained on the floor for 43-plus minutes.
When it was over, Rubio had delivered a decisive performance -- 17 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds, four steals -- despite making just four of 16 shots and committing seven turnovers.
When it was over, Love had provided another 31-point, 10-rebound double-double game, his third 30-point night in the past six.
Together, the Wolves' two probable maximum-salary players of the future combined for back-to-back three-pointers late in the second quarter that transformed the game.
Trailing by 10 points with 77 seconds left before halftime, those two threes -- including Love's with .9 seconds remaining -- ended an 8-0 flourishing finish and started a 21-4 burst that ended the first half and began the second.
"Sometimes two shots can change everything," Johnson said.
They did Wednesday, when Johnson looked like he wanted to go back to bed before the game and ended up playing 17 minutes anyway. That included the game's final six minutes, when the Mavs tried to come back by playing a three-guard offense and Adelman had no other options.
"I didn't know how much he could give us and then I go with him down the stretch," Adelman said. "Of course, he's in there getting oxygen now."
While an attendant was administering it to Johnson with a machine, Love soaked his feet in ice and Rubio claimed to yearn for the routines of Europe, when his pro team played two 40-minute games and practiced the rest of the week.
"Oh, I miss practice," said Rubio, who stretched his sore body after the game. "I never thought I was going to say that. But I miss it. You play a lot of games here. It is fun to play, I like it, but it is hard. I was tired, especially in the fourth quarter. [Adelman] give me a minute rest. I said thank you."