Williams starts, finishes strong as Wolves go over .500

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 8, 2012 - 11:42 AM

Minus the suspended Kevin Love, the Wolves started fast and held on as rookie Derrick Williams hit a tie-breaking three-pointer in the final minute.

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The Timberwolves survived without suspended star Kevin Love on Tuesday night, beating Sacramento 86-84 at Target Center in a game that was notable for just who tweeted and who didn't all evening.

While Love sat home providing commentary in 140-character dispatches from his Minneapolis riverside condo, his replacement, rookie forward Derrick Williams, this time spoke for himself only with his play.

While teammate Nikola Pekovic carried the Wolves to a threshold of victory with a dominating performance over Kings center DeMarcus Cousins, Williams took his team the rest of the way by providing the crucial, go-ahead three-pointer from the right corner that busted open a tied game with 57 seconds remaining.

Williams' shot provided the lead, and then his team held on tight until Sacramento forward Donte Greene's potential winning three-pointer rattled off the rim and bounced away at the buzzer.

The victory gives the Wolves their second three-game winning streak of the season and it moves them into winning territory (13-12) for the first time this late in the season since January 2007. It came one day after the NBA suspended Love for two games for stepping on Houston forward Luis Scola's face and chest in a game Saturday.

"A game like this is really important for us," said forward Michael Beasley, who replaced Love's 13.7 rebounds a game all by himself with a season-high 14 rebounds. "It builds character, it builds a winning attitude. To go one [victory] over .500 -- and to do it without Kevin -- it's really important."

Three days after he tweeted something postgame about feeling like a "caged lion" because of his restricted playing time, Williams started Tuesday at power forward and played more than 26 minutes, his most in more than two weeks.

His clutch three was only his second in a month and it provided the telling punctuation in a game where the Wolves lost an 11-point lead with fewer than 11 minutes to play and didn't exhale until Greene's final shot missed.

Love greeted Williams' shot by tweeting, "Great shot Rook!," one of eight commentaries he tapped out during the game.

"I'm glad he was watching and gave me a shout-out," Williams said. "It's pretty hard to make up pretty close to his 30 [points] and 15 [rebounds] every night. I'm just glad we got this win.

"My shot, it felt great. I started the season pretty strong from three, but the last 10 games I've been hesitant. I'm really glad I hit that one. I got my confidence back a little more."

Until that shot, Pekovic carried his teammates on those big, strong shoulders most of the night. With Darko Milicic out injured again, Pekovic took up where Love left off, providing another double-double of his own with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Among his highlights was a driving breakaway layup after a steal at halfcourt.

"Maybe he can play as a point guard and I'm going to start playing as a center," said Wolves rookie Ricky Rubio, who tied a career high with 14 assists, even though he and his teammates shot only 40.5 percent from the floor.

Pekovic admitted, "I surprised myself" with that bit of thievery and ball handling. He also delighted an announced audience of 14,073 with a display of nifty footwork and spinning offensive moves that enabled him to completely outplay Cousins one night after the former Kentucky star went for 28 points and 19 rebounds in New Orleans.

Love noticed, tweeting, "Pek is out there working!!!"

When informed of that, Pekovic replied, "I don't know. I don't got Twitters."

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  • Michael Beasley (left), Donte Greene


    Up next: 7 tonight at Memphis • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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