Love's Late Free Throws Sink Philadelphia 92-91

Mark Remme
Wolves Editor/Writer

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Timberwolves forward Kevin Love admitted every so often a player has a night where the ball just doesn’t feel right in his hands. Whatever the reason, no matter how elite the athlete, the shots just don’t fall.

Through three quarters on Sunday against Philadelphia, Love had one of those nights. He shot 2-for-14 from the field heading into the fourth and just couldn’t get into a comfortable offensive rhythm. But Love stuck with it and, with the game still in reach, he kept telling himself one good quarter could make the difference.

And it did.

Love scored 12 points in the fourth quarter, including a pair of free-throws with 0.1 seconds left on the clock, and the Timberwolves beat the 76ers 92-91 in front of a packed Target Center crowd in Minneapolis. Love took an inbound pass with 3.6 seconds left on the clock, made a move to the basket and drew a foul on Andre Iguodala with virtually no time left on the clock.

“I just told myself it takes half a good quarter or a good quarter of basketball, especially in a close game like this,” Love said. “I wasn’t going to let my teammates down.”

The win gets Minnesota (16-16) back to the .500 mark and extends its winning streak to three games. It’s the first time since 2006-07 that the Wolves have had three winning streaks of three or more games in a season. Meanwhile, the 76ers—who lead the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division—lost their third straight game.

Love said the coaching staff drew up the final play to give him multiple options. Taking the inbound pass with 3.6 seconds on the clock and down by a point, Love said he could either hand the ball off to guard Luke Ridnour, pull up for a jumper in the high post or drive to the basket.

But when he made a move and drove to the hoop, he said he knew he was in a good position to make the shot or draw a foul.

“He stayed with it; that’s what you have to do,” coach Rick Adelman said. “That’s the way it is in this league. That’s the best defensive team in the league, so they’re going to take things away from you and you have to find a way.”

The Sixers (20-12) entered the game allowing 87.2 points per contest and forced 14 turnovers per night. But the Wolves, like Love, adapted in the second half and made it difficult for Philadelphia’s stingy defense to get takeaways down the stretch.

Minnesota had seven turnovers in the first half, which led to 13 Sixers points. But the Wolves cut down their miscues in the third and fourth quarters, turning the ball over three times in the second half and limiting the speedy 76ers club to only five fast break points after halftime. They had 16 for the game.

“That’s the main thing about them; If you turn the ball over, they’re going to get out in the open court and score easy buckets,” forward Derrick Williams said. “That’s what they did in the first half. We did a good job in the second half doing that, limiting turnovers for ourselves and getting better shots.”

The Wolves trailed by as many as 11 points in the first quarter and never led by more than two points. On seven different occasions in the second half they led by one point, but it wasn’t until Love’s free throws with 0.1 second left that they secured the game.

Love finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds for the game after starting 2-for-14 from the field. He hit five of his final nine shots in the game.

While he struggled, Love’s teammates stepped up. Guard Ricky Rubio scored 14 points in the first quarter and finished with a career-high 22 points to go along with five assists on the night. Center Nikola Pekovic finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, guard JJ Barea had 14 points and Ridnour finished with 10. The team shot 23-for-26 from the free-throw line.

Guard Jrue Holiday led the way with 20 points for the Sixers, while Iguodala and Lou Williams had 13 points each, Thaddeus Young had 10 points and Jodie Meeks had nine.

The Timberwolves travel to Denver for their first matchup of the season with the Nuggets on Monday, where they’ll look for their fourth straight victory.

Love said Sunday’s win wasn’t pretty, but everyone contributed to help pull out the victory.

“Against a team like that, it’s great to get a win in that fashion,” Love said. “We’d love to win by double digits, but you have to grind it out.”

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