The Minnesota Timberwolves needed yet another clutch three pointer from Kevin Love to avoid a home-opener loss against the Orlando Magic, but for the third time in his career, the team’s star delivered from long range when it really counts, giving his team enough juice as they headed into overtime to come up with the 120-115 win, getting plenty of help from Ricky Rubio along the way.
Another season starts for the Timberwolves, this time a lot healthier than before. Not just Rubio and Love playing 40 minutes, but also the addition of Kevin Martin raises the expectations bar for the team this season. Add the fact that Corey Brewer has returned as a much better player, and Nikola Pekovic is also a very difficult player to handle, and you understand why the Timberwolves are hoping that this is finally their year.
Love finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds, although he did slow down in the end. However, hitting a three pointer to make it a tied game at 103-103 with 10.2 seconds left in the game made up for a weak fourth quarter, before Kevin Martin got hot in overtime (scoring 7 points) along with Nikola Pekovic and Ricky Rubio.
It was great to see Rubio continuing what he started off late last season, which is becoming a more aggressive player than before, and not just a creator of wonderful assists. He finished with 13 points, 11 assists and 3 steals, as he tries to get over his disease of being a terrible outside shooter. He was only 5-of-15 from the field, but did make a three pointer which usually isn’t the case.
Kevin Martin was quite selfish, as expected, on his debut. He shot only a 6-of-19 from the field, but was perfect on 9-of-9 from the line, finishing with 23 points. A little less selfishness for him, and the Timberwolves will have one of the most fun-to-watch backcourts in the league.
The Timberwolves bench is a weird place right now – rookie Shabazz Muhammad didn’t get a single second on the floor, but it was even more surprising to see Derrick Williams receiving the same treatment from Rick Adleman, although the previous two seasons have shown he doesn’t have much faith in the player. When the Orlando Magic went small, Adelman simply used Brewer as his small forward, preferring Alexey Shved or J.J. Barea as his extra guards on the floor.
The Orlando Magic are without Tobias Harris, but this team has looked better than the worst in the NBA (which they were) over the first couple of games this season. Nikola Vucevic is turning into a great NBA center, and Arron Afflalo keeps adding to his value as a trading chip later this season with 28 points. However, at some point the firepower ran out against a Timberwolves team that is a bit out of sync, but deep enough to do much better than in the previous years if they manage to stay healthy.
I personally knew we’d win the whole time. I told the guys with two or three minutes left, just keep playing through it. It’s going to be a learning experience for us, but we’re going to win this game. They all agreed.