Notebook: Timberwolves 114, Mavericks 106

Posted Dec 16, 2012 1:21 AM

By Phil Miller, for

THE FACTS: Ricky Rubio was limited by doctors' orders to just 18 minutes in his return from major knee surgery on Saturday, but he made them count. Minnesota's creative point guard handed out nine assists in his season debut, helping the Minnesota Timberwolves win their fourth straight game, a 114-106 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.

Rubio, who tore the ACL and LCL ligaments in his right knee on March 9 and had reconstructive surgery on March 21, entered the game to a standing ovation with 1:47 left in the first quarter, and he jolted a sluggish Wolves offense to life. But when Minnesota missed four shots at a game-winner in regulation, including a 3-pointer from Rubio that bounced off the front rim, the Spaniard, his allotted minutes all used up, had to sit and watch his teammates dominate the Mavs in overtime, scoring the first 10 points to hand Dallas its third straight loss.

Nikola Pekovic had 18 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, who played without All-Star forward Kevin Love, while Andrei Kirilenko added 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Alexey Shved had 18 points and six assists. Dallas was led by 20 points apiece by starting guard Derek Fisher -- his first 20-point regular-season game in almost four years -- and O.J. Mayo.

: "When he has the ball in his hands, I'm a lot better coach."

-- Minnesota coach Rick Adelman, on the effect Ricky Rubio had on the Wolves

THE STAT: 4 -- Assists by Rubio on the Wolves' first six baskets with him at point guard (he scored one of the other two hoops himself), announcing with authority that he's still the Wolves' best ball-handler. Rubio finished with a game-high nine assists in 18 minutes.

Minnesota had the ball with 34 seconds remaining in a tie game, and though they missed four straight shots and tips that would have won the game in regulation, they headed back to the bench, and into overtime, with obvious confidence, laughing and gesturing in frustration over their sudden inability to score. It wasn't a fluke -- Minnesota got an Alexey Shved dunk off the overtime tip, and scored the first 10 points of the extra period to put the game away quickly.

: "I cannot say with words how it felt to be on the court again, and to hear the fans cheering. I dream of this day for a long time."

-- Rubio

HOT: Ricky Rubio entered Saturday's game to a standing ovation with Minnesota trailing by 10, and he left to another with Minnesota down only two. In between, he put on a show that had an already electric crowd ecstatic. He threw one pass behind his back, reached around a defender's back to make another, and in the highlight of the night, bounced a pass between his legs to Greg Stiemsma under the basket for a dunk.

NOT: The Mavericks have suddenly lost their ability to dominate Minnesota. After winning 18 of 19 meetings, the Mavericks -- who have now lost three straight games overall -- have dropped four of their last five matchups with the Timberwolves.

FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Derek Fisher has been declared washed up several times, but he keeps coming back. Just two weeks after signing with Dallas, Fisher was 5-for-8 from the field, 3-for-5 on 3-pointers, to finish with 20 points -- his first 20-point game in the regular season in almost four years. Fisher, who has averaged 12.3 points over his last four games, last scored 20 in a regular-season game on Dec. 20, 2008, against Orlando, while Fisher was with the Lakers.

GOOD MOVE: Dallas coach Rick Carlisle went with a small lineup in the fourth quarter, using three guards and playing forward Elton Brand at center. The lineup helped produce open shots for Fisher, and the 38-year-old point guard responded with nine points in the quarter, helping close the Wolves' 10-point lead.

BAD MOVE: Vince Carter was hitting shots and finding teammates for easy shots, producing nine points and four assists off the bench. But he was having difficulty guarding Shved, too, and the result was six fouls, Carter's first disqualification since the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, that kept him out of the game's final three minutes and overtime.

ROOKIE WATCH: Forward Jae Crowder played for the first time since Monday, after missing two games with the flu, but he still appeared weakened by his condition. In 12 minutes off the bench, Crowder missed both of two shots he took, and didn't collect an assist or a rebound.

NOTABLE: Brand came off the bench to score 15 points with seven rebounds for the Mavericks. ... Minnesota forward Kevin Love, who reinjured his right thumb late in Minnesota's victory in New Orleans on Friday, decided about an hour before game time to try to play anyway. But he was also suffering from the flu, and owner Glen Taylor sent him home about 10 minutes before the team took the floor. Dante Cunningham started in Love's place, making his first start of the season. ... Also out for the Wolves was reserve forward Josh Howard, who hyperextended his right knee during the second quarter in New Orleans on Friday. Howard is expected to travel with the team to Orlando for Monday's game, though his status for the game is unknown. ... Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki gave a three-word answer to a Dallas Morning News reporter who inquired about his recovery from offseason knee surgery: "I'm not close." Nowitzki has yet to play this season.

: For the Mavericks, Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, Thursday vs. Miami, Friday @ Memphis. For the Timberwolves, Monday @ Orlando, Tuesday @ Miami, Thursday vs. Oklahoma City.