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Timberwolves 114, Mavericks 106

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves didn't let a fourth-quarter Dallas comeback ruin Ricky Rubio's return to action from knee surgery.

After the Mavericks forced overtime in a game it looked like the Timberwolves would win easily Saturday night, Minnesota scored the first 10 points of overtime and defeated Dallas 114-106.

Nikola Pekovic scored three of his team-high 21 points in overtime and Andrei Kirilenko scored five of his 14 in the extra five minutes. Alexy Shved (18 points), Derrick Williams (16), Luke Ridnour (15) and J.J. Barea (14) also reached double figures as Minnesota (12-9) won its fourth consecutive game. O.J. Mayo and Derek Fisher each scored 20 to lead Dallas, while Elton Brand added 15 for the Mavericks.

After forcing a Mayo miss, Minnesota had a chance to win the game on the final possession of regulation. The Timberwolves got an offensive rebound off their initial shot and Rubio dribbled down the clock before missing a 17-footer with about five seconds to play.

Pekovic and Kirilenko both tried to tip in offensive rebounds, but neither could get a game-winner to drop before the horn went off.

In overtime, Kirilenko found Shved for a dunk off of the tip before following with five points of his own. Kirilenko's 3-pointer with 3:18 to play in overtime gave Minnesota a 109-102 lead and essentially clinched the victory for the Timberwolves.

Rubio, who didn't play in overtime as his minutes are being limited, dominated when he was on the floor.

After missing the final 25 games of last season and the first 20 this year, Rubio scored eight points and dished out nine assists and 19 minutes of action against the Mavericks. But his influence was much greater than that. The return of Rubio -- his spectacular passes and his ability to find easy baskets -- seemed to energize the rest of Timberwolves.

Rubio, who was expected to be limited to 16-18 minutes of action, entered the game to a standing ovation with 1:47 to play in the first quarter. In his first stretch of action, Rubio threw a pair of great passes to Barea and a spectacular between-the-legs pass that led to a Greg Stiemsma layup.

But the return of Rubio was about more than just fancy passing. The Timberwolves trailed by 10 points when the Spaniard entered the game for the first time. When he came out seven-plus minutes later, Minnesota was within two.

Rubio's return seemed to energize the rest of the Timberwolves, even after he went back to the bench. Minnesota, which trailed by as many as 13 points in the first quarter, took a 40-39 lead when Shved hit a 3-pointer with 5:51 to play in the first half.

The Timberwolves closed the first half on a 12-3 run to lead 54-45 at the break. Dallas made just one field goal over the final seven minutes of the 2nd quarter, going 1-for-12 from the floor in that stretch.

NOTES: While the Timberwolves got Ricky Rubio back in the lineup against the Mavs, they played without power forward Kevin Love. About 20 minutes before the game it was announced that Love would sit because of flu-like symptoms rather than the hand that he tweaked late in Friday's win at New Orleans. ... A night after scoring only 74 points and losing by 20 at Toronto, Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was more concerned with how his team defended against the Raptors than anything else. "Last night our struggles were related to our defense and what was not happening there much more than our offense," Carlisle said. "When we get stops, we score. That's been proven, that's our identity, and it has to start on the defensive end." ... Minnesota wing and ex-Maverick Josh Howard didn't play against his former team. Howard hyperextended his right knee during the second quarter of Friday's win at New Orleans. ... Dallas got forward Jae Crowder back in the lineup against Minnesota after missing two games because of flu-like symptoms.
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