In what was one of the most exciting games of the season, the Wolves defeated the Dallas Mavericks tonight in overtime, 123-122. A basket by Kevin Love after some nifty maneuvers in the post gave the Wolves their last lead and were the final points of the game, as Dirk Nowitzki missed a challenged step-back jumper at the buzzer. The Wolves were finally able to exhale after a thrilling night and head off to Houston with a win.
For the Wolves, the star of the game was Ricky Rubio, who played an astounding 49 minutes including the entire 2nd half and overtime. He was brilliant, recording his third career triple double, and finishing with 22 points (on 8-12 from the field), 15 assists, 10 rebounds, and 4 steals. It's hard to overstate his impact, as time and again he drove the ball and made something happen, or found cutters and rollers at the basket, or made a big defensive play. It was a beautiful Ricky Rubio performance, with everything great about his game on display: the court vision, decision making, defensive effort, and enthusiasm. Rick Adelman, who has been consistently criticized for not playing Rubio enough, especially late in games, clearly understood the impact Rubio was making tonight, and left him on the floor throughout. It was a spectacular game.
The Wolves, as is often their way, got off to a strong start, outscoring the Mavs in the first quarter 37-24. They were able to translate several Dallas turnovers into runouts and fastbreaks, and executed in the half court behind Rubio's brilliance. Early in the 2nd quarter, they opened their biggest lead of the night, 46-24. The Mavericks, however, are a good team, and fought back diuring the remander of the quarter, getting within seven at halftime.
The Wolves were able to hold their lead through most of the 2nd half, and in fact still had a 12 point lead with under 5:00 minutes to go. Monta Ellis took over at that point, making three straight 3 pointers and scoring 12 straight points overall to push the Mavericks into a lead they hadn't enjoyed since the start of the game. The Wolves responded, however, and two Rubio free throws with under a minute left tied the game and led to overtime.
There, the Mavericks quickly got out to a five point lead, but the Wolves fought back behind Rubio and Kevin Love, who scored their last six points, four of them at the free throw line. Giving Dirk Nowitzki a chance to win at the end is not a good feeling, but he missed tonight and the Wolves hung on for a fantastic win on the road. It's wins like tonight that make losses such as the Knicks game last week so hard to accept.
Another performance worth mentioning is that of Gorgui Dieng, who had his 2nd straight double-double, making all five of his shots on route to a 10 point, 11 rebound performance in 25 minutes. He more than held his own with Samuel Dalembert, and seems to be improving every time out. It's good to see him take advantage of his opportunity and show real improvement when he's on the floor. If he can provide a real option inside going forward, it will make the Wolves a better team.
J.J. Barea had one of his more effective nights recently, scoring 15 points on 13 shots, and helping build that big 2nd quarter lead.
Tomorrow night the Wolves are in Houston to face the Rockets, who will be without Dwight Howard due to injury. A tough Texas two-step.