THE FACTS: With a near triple-double, Ricky Rubio led the undersized and undermanned Minnesota Timberwolves to an 87-82 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday. The Wolves (21-37), dressing just nine players and missing their entire starting front court, used an effective three-guard set throughout the night that forced 24 turnovers and out-hustled the larger and slower Wizards (19-40).
Down 77-74 with just under six minutes remaining, the Wolves mounted a 13-5 rally fueled by guards J.J. Barea, and Luke Ridnour who scored eight of the 13 and helped hassle the Wizards into several turnovers and bad shots. Rubio also made a key steal in the final minute to finish a brilliant performance of 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds, and six steals. John Wall led the way for the Wizards with 19 points and seven assists.
TURNING POINT: With 31 seconds left and the Wolves ahead 83-82, Rubio stole the ball from Wall and fed Barea for a layup that put the Wolves up three and forced the Wizards into an awkward three-point miss on the next possession.
QUOTABLE: "I lost the game really ... I took the three when we were down one and then we got a stop....[but] then J.J. did a great job of jumping out and Rubio hit the ball away and they went up three, so that was tough."
--John Wall commenting on the key plays in the game's final minute
THE STAT: After allowing the usually abysmal Wolves to shoot 51.3 percent in the first half, the Wizards clamped down in the third quarter and forced the Wolves into just five field goals on 22.7-percent shooting. However, the Wizards didn't cut into a five-point halftime deficit because they managed only six field goals themselves, thus keeping the Wolves in the game.
HOT: With six steals tonight, Rubio is now averaging 4.3 steals over his last 10 games. Alvin Robertson holds the all-time NBA steals record with 3.67 steals per game in the 1985-1986 season.
NOT: Wall and Emeka Okafor committed 13 of the Wizards' 24 turnovers, including two critical ones in the final three minutes. Washington is 28th in the NBA at 15.5 turnovers per game.
QUOTABLE II: "We aren't going to beat anybody with the carelessness we have with the ball. We just don't value the basketball at all."
--Wizards coach Randy Wittman
GOOD MOVE: Wittman started Trevor Ariza in place of the injured Bradley Beal, and Ariza got the Wizards off to an opening quarter lead with 10 points, three assists, and two boards.
BAD MOVE: Wittman stayed with a larger lineup of Nene and Okafor in the final minutes, and they proved unable to effectively guard the smaller, quicker Timberwolves during the game's decisive run.
FANTASY SPOTLIGHT: Rubio is filling up the fantasy stat sheets. Not only is he piling up steals for owners, he's averaging over 10 points per game and has nine straight games with at least five assists and five rebounds.
QUOTABLE III: "[Rubio] was unbelievable at the end of the game. He got his hands on those steals ... he made six steals. It seemed like he had more than that."
--Wolves coach Rick Adelman
ROOKIE WATCH: Beal was carried off the court in Sundays game against the 76ers with what appeared to be a severe ankle injury. But Beal was seen before the game without crutches, and Wittman said he was "close" to playing. He's officially day-to-day.
NOTABLE: The win snapped a six-game losing streak for the Timberwolves. ...Wittman was attempting to win his 38th game as head coach of the Wizards in his 108th game. He had 38 total wins as the Wolves coach in 143 games. ...All five Wizards starters scored in double figures tonight, helping making up for the loss of Beal, their leading scorer. ...The Wizards are now 14-12 since Wall returned to the lineup. They were 5-28 without him. ...The Wizards have held their last 10 opponents on the road to under 100 points. ...Kevin Love plans to have his injured hand examined in two weeks and is likely at least three weeks away from returning to game action.
UP NEXT: For the Wizards, Friday @ Brooklyn, Saturday vs. Charlotte, Tuesday @ Cleveland. For the Wolves, Saturday @ Denver, Sunday vs. Dallas, Tuesday vs. San Antonio.