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.

Backyard game: Wolves end 7-game losing streak, beat Warriors 126-123

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves postgame, Wolves news Updated: February 28, 2011 - 11:13 AM

Rookie Wes Johnson said he was just playing one-on-one in his backyard when he faced Monta Ellis with the Wolves clinging to a one-point lead and the game ticking away Sunday afternoon.

Kevin Love once again carried the Wolves, this time to the brink of victory with a 37-point, 23-rebound performance that tied franchise records for free throws made (18) and attempted (23).

But it was Johnson' s two big defensive plays in the final five seconds that ensured the end of a seven-game losing streak and gave the Wolves their first home victory in a month.

His block playing Ellis straight up as Ellis drove to the basket with 4.3 seconds left preserved that one-point lead.

It also created a pair of Anthony Tolliver free throws that provided the final three-point margin of victory after Johnson and Mike Beasley double-teamed Steph Curry. They prevented the same guy who made five threes Sunday from getting off one final one that could have sent the game to overtime.

"It feels good," Johnson said after playing a game in which he delivered on both ends of the floor (17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 steals, 3 assists, 2 blocks). "I want to win. We went too long without winning. I really tried to buckle down and really focus in and get that first stop."

Jonny Flynn told Johnson before Sunday's game that he needs to step forward and defensively become the "New Brew" now that Corey Brewer has been traded away.

Kurt Rambis didn't exactly say it that way, but he did say this:

"We're encouraging Wes to be an impactful player all over the floor. That's the mindset we want him to have. Because of his quickness, his length, he's a quick jumper. He doesn't have to recoil a lot. He gets off his feet really quick, blocking shots or rebounding. We want to open his mind to the tremendous amount of versatility he has, shooting the basketball, driving it, posting up, playing defense on the ball, off the ball.

"In all areas, we think he can make contributions. I just don't know if he has thought of himself that way. When you have somebody that long and can jump that quick, he's capable of making those type of plays."

Johnson got the steal on the game's final play after the Wolves for the second time in three seconds did something they've done so little of this season: Play sturdy defense.

With no timeouts left and his time on in-bounding the ball running out, Dorrell Wright was forced into a desperate pass to Curry, who came toward him for the ball on the sideline. Johnson and Beasley converged, knocking the ball free and Johnson grabbed with it as time ran out.

Those two plays made just one more ridiculous individual performance by Love stand up for the first home victory since they beat Toronto at the end of January.

For awhile Sunday night, it looked like Love might be not just for another 30/30 game, but for a 40/30, even though he attempted just three field goals after halftime. He came within three points of the first 40/20 game in the NBA since Shaquille O'Neal did so in 2003.

"I was hoping for the 40 ball," he said. "I just missed free throws."

He reached those 37 points, though, by getting to the free throw line 23 times and made 18 of them.

Both of those numbers tied franchise records: The 23 tied Tony Campbell's attempts back in 1990 and the 18 made tied Christian Laettner's makes in 1993.

The other four starters got to the free throw line for just three attempts between them.

"If we would have kept going, it'd be free throws missed, too,"  Love said about franchise records.

His play all night made that lengthy meeting players and coaches before Saturday's practice look smart.

Admittedly, that meeting didn't appear to have much effect when the Wolves surrendered 41 first-quarter and 73 first-half points.

But they outscored Golden State 35-16 in a decisive third quarter on a night when they led by eight early, trailed by 14 in the second quarter and then led again by as many 17 in the fourth quarter before they hung on there at the end.

All five Wolves starters were in the plus -- from Beasley's plus-13 to Darko's plus-24 in just 12 1/2 minutes played -- while all the reserves were in the minus of the plus-minus ratings.

That's it for Sunday afternoon/evening at Target Center.

The Lakers come to town for their second and final visit of the season on Tuesday.

Kent's got practice Monday and I'll be back for Tuesday's game and the upcoming road trip to Detroit, Philadelphia and Washington that starts Wednesday.

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