Love's Shot Boosted Wolves To OT Win

Love's Shot Boosted Wolves To OT Win

The Timberwolves ran the play several times during practice the day before. With Ricky Rubio inbounding the ball from the sideline, Kevin Love breaks from the paint between two screens by Nikola Pekovic and Corey Brewer parting the Red Sea, takes the inbound pass, turns and fires from beyond the arc.

In practice, the motions were just right. But did the shots fall?

“No, but they were great, great shots,” Love said. “But I’d rather make it in the game than in practice.”

He did just that on Wednesday night.

Love parted those screens, took the Rubio pass and released a perfect shot from the wing with 10.1 to play on Wednesday, knotting the Wolves and Magic at 103-103 and forcing overtime before Minnesota pulled away for a 120-115 Opening Night victory.

The shot instantly brought back dual memories. It looked incredibly similar to Love’s buzzer-beater in Los Angeles that downed the Clippers in January 2012—from the shot all the way to his celebratory extended arms—and the way the crowd reacted inside Target Center was probably the loudest burst at a Wolves game since Chase Budinger’s buzzer-beater against Indiana last November.

With that one shot, the Wolves rebooted their offense just in time to pull out the win. With that one shot, the Wolves began executing their offense in a way Orlando simply could not match. It was, in many ways, a shot in the arm for this Wolves team and the fan base that propelled them into the overtime and on to victory.

“It gave our team life,” guard Kevin Martin said. “That was a really, that was about to be a really ugly night, and we turned it into a good night.”

Minnesota came out firing in the first quarter—hitting 59.1 percent of its shots and scoring the team’s most points in a first quarter since putting up 40 against Portland on March 3, 2012. But the offense sputtered for much of the second half, and it took a little boost of energy and adrenaline to put it back on track. Minnesota went from harboring a 17-point lead to trailing by three with 12 seconds to play.

Once that execution was back, Minnesota started cruising.

The Wolves scored just 16 points in 12 minutes during the fourth quarter. They scored 17 in the five minute overtime. It came thanks to aggressive play—a steal that led to a Corey Brewer transition slam 30 seconds in set the tone. After that, Pekovic muscled in a layup off a Rubio pass and drew the foul. His free throw put the Wolves up three.

Audio: Postgame Podcast with John Focke

On the Wolves’ next possession, Kevin Martin hit a runner and drew the foul. His and-1 put Minnesota up four, and Pekovic’s layup on the next possession ballooned the lead to six.

Love said there wasn’t a moment when he lost faith the Wolves would win that game. It would be a learning experience, he said, but he believe the Wolves would endure. His teammates believed, too, and in the end they pulled out the five-point win.

“You’ve got to believe,” Love said. “I still thought that the whole time. Just never let it—I think as a team we never let it ride. We looked at each other and said we worked on this yesterday at practice. We just have to get an open look and make a shot, and we did that. Very happy, and that’s for the whole team just the power of positive thinking. But we got to really continue to put teams like this in the whole and not make it so close.”

That 3-pointer was what it took. Seconds after Love hit the shot, Brewer defended Arron Afflalo as he took a 16-foot turnaround fade to try and win the game in regulation. It didn’t drop, and the Wolves had new life.

They made the most of it.

“In overtime, we just realized that they gave us another chance and we weren’t going to lose this chance,” Rubio said.

Love finished the game with 31 points and 17 boards, but none of his plays were more heroic than that last shot in regulation. He’s the one the Wolves want taking that shot when the game is on the line. Like he did in L.A. two years ago, he made good once again on Wednesday night. Arms extended, you can see the belief and the confidence in his celebration. The shots didn’t fall on Tuesday, but the preparation paved the way for Wednesday.

And Wednesday’s shot paved the way for a Wolves victory.

“I think we can all agree he’s already a star,” Martin said. “He’s hungry this year. He wants to get this playoff experience for the first time, and you know he played big for us tonight. You can’t put it into words, but you know we were going to expect that out of him every night.”

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