Target Center was packed Saturday night, with an announced 19,562 fans. Most of them came, perhaps, to complain about the past. They might have left feeling a lot better about the future.
Which is why the game between the Timberwolves and Cavaliers began with fans booing the returning Kevin Love every time he came within a few feet of the basketball. By the time the fourth quarter started, most were busy cheering rookie Andrew Wiggins.
Dead tired after playing big minutes the previous night and asked to go against LeBron James at both ends of the floor, Wiggins — the main return in the trade that sent Love to Cleveland last summer — scored a career-high 33 points. That both he and the Wolves ran out of gas in the fourth quarter of a 106-90 loss?
Just keep thinking about the future.
"He showed tonight he had the potential to be a superstar in this league," Wolves coach Flip Saunders said. "He rises to the moment."
Wiggins made 14 of 25 shots, including three of four three-pointers. His 33 points matched the franchise record for a teenager, also held by Kevin Garnett and Stephon Marbury. But, afterward, the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft seemed more frustrated with the way things went in the fourth quarter than in the first three.
"I think I could have done better on defense," said Wiggins, who was outscored by James 16-2 in the fourth quarter. Indeed, it was six consecutive points by James early in the fourth that turned a two-point Cavs deficit into a lead they never relinquished.
Still, in a physical matchup, the 19-year-old held his own much of the night, with the highlight coming early in the second quarter when Wiggins — with James up in his face — executed a nice slip move into the lane for an easy score.
Wiggins, who scored 27 points in Cleveland earlier this season, scored 12 points in the first quarter, 11 in the second and eight in the third, which ended with the Wolves up three.
"This is always a motivation game, against Cleveland," Wiggins said. "Especially when they have one of the all-time greats in LeBron. That's just motivation for me. For the whole team, I'm sure."
The Wolves also got double-figure scoring from three other starters, including 19 points from Thaddeus Young. Center Nikola Pekovic had 14 points with 12 rebounds.
But that wasn't enough to stop James, who decided early in the third quarter that enough was enough. He led the Cavaliers to a 10th consecutive victory despite Wiggins' best efforts.
"I love a big stage," Wiggins said. "I love playing in the spotlight. Lots of fans, big crowds. That's motivation for everybody."
After it was over, James talked glowingly about the rookie he never got a chance to play with.
"He's a great talent, a great talent," James said. "I think has a good feel for the game, and that's good to see. … He played the game the right way tonight."
And he appears pointed in the right direction.
"It means a lot," Wiggins said when told what James had said. "It was a competitive game, back and forth. I look forward to playing him in the future."