Free throws in final (.1) second bring win for Wolves

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 20, 2012 - 7:03 AM

Kevin Love's decisive free throws made it easy to forget his struggles of the first three quarters Sunday night.

Through three quarters it was bad. Off the glass, off the rim, miss, miss, miss.

Timberwolves forward Kevin Love would get the ball, work for position, take a shot, curse the result. He hit two of 14 shots through three quarters against a Philadelphia 76ers team that played defense as hard as any team the Wolves have seen all season.

But remember:

"I just needed one good quarter," Love said. "That's it."

He got it. Love scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter. Two came on free throws with 0.1 seconds left. With the crowd of 18,758 fans at Target Center on their feet and screaming, Love calmly hit both free throws to give the Wolves a 92-91 victory.

The Wolves trailed 91-90 when Love grabbed the rebound of Lou Williams' miss with 3.6 seconds left.

Coming out of a timeout, Ricky Rubio inbounded the ball to Love. His options were to hand the ball to Luke Ridnour, stop and pop or drive. Love noticed Thaddeus Young overplaying him, so he chose Option No. 3.

"He kind of hit me," Love said. "I thought, initially, I'd get the foul. But I continued to drive and I knew I had him there. I just had to take it to the rack strong."

Andre Iguodala came over to help and committed the foul with one tick -- literally -- left on the clock. Two free throws later, the Wolves, with a three-game winning streak, had once again reached .500.

It was their third three-game winning streak of the season and it marked the latest in a season the Wolves had been .500 or better since they were 22-22 in 2006-07.

And much of that was because Love refused to quit shooting.

It was ugly for a good long while. By the time the fourth quarter started with the Wolves down two, Love hadn't made a field goal since there was 3:59 left in the first.

With Love struggling, others picked it up. Rubio scored 22 points, the most since he scored 25 in a game while playing in Spain in 2007. Fourteen points came in the first quarter. Then there was guard J.J. Barea (14 points), the new dad, who came off the bench to score eight in the second, keeping the Wolves close against the defensive-minded 76ers. In the third the Wolves -- whose physical post play translated into 26 free throws (they made 23) -- got 11 from Nikola Pekovic (who finished with 17), seven of those coming at the line.

But it was a struggle. Rubio had no assists and the Wolves just five at halftime, leading to a lecture by coach Rick Adelman. In the fourth quarter, Adelman called a timeout, angry after a sloppy possession turned into a 76ers break.

But not to worry. Love was back.

"The ball didn't really feel right in my hands," Love said of his early struggles. "Sometimes I have nights like that. It's once in a blue moon. I've grown from them. I wasn't going to let my teammates down."

Pick up the action with the 76ers leading 78-72. Barea scored. Then, with 9:44 left Love hit a 16-foot jumper, then pumped his fists as he ran down the floor. The message: "I'm here," Love said. "I've arrived in this game, finally."

The lead went back and forth until the final minute. Love scored with 59.3 seconds left, but Young scored at the other end. Love missed a three-pointer with 28.9 left but made up for it by rebounding Williams' miss with 3.6 left.

"We've had so many tough losses against good teams here," Adelman said. "To come out here, against a very good team, and get the win? I couldn't be happier for them."

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