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Timberwolves 87, Wizards 82

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Ever since Kevin Love got hurt, the Timberwolves have been trying to figure out a way to finish games.

Finally, Wednesday, they did it.

Led by Ricky Rubio -- who had 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and six steals -- the Wolves rallied for an 87-82 victory over the Washington Wizards at Target Center.

Down by two with four minutes left, the Wolves put together a 6-0 run to take the lead for good, making just enough plays to seal the victory.

The victory snapped a six-game losing streak for the Wolves (21-37). Washington (19-40), which had all five starters score in double figures, lost for just the fifth time in 13 games.

John Wall led the Wizards with 19 points, but his turnover late proved to be crucial. Trevor Ariza scored 16 points and Nene had 12.

Down 79-77, the Wolves went on a 6-0 run to take an 83-79 lead with 3:14 left on two free throws by Derrick Williams.

But Nene hit one of two free throws with 2:26 left. After a missed shot at the other end, Emika Okafor hit a jumper with 1:49 left to make it a one-point game.

But the Wolves did not yield. After Rubio was blocked by Okafor at one end, Rubio dove, knocking the ball out of Wall's hands. Then, still on the floor, he got the ball to J.J. Barea, whose driving layup with 28.2 seconds left gave the Wolves an 85-82 lead.

After a Wizards miss, Luke Ridnour hit two free throws with 11.5 seconds remaining to seal the win.

Ridnour finished with 15 points and Williams had 16.

Ariza, filling in as a starter for the injured Bradley Beal, and Wall each scored 10 points in the first quarter as the Wizards -- who shot 11-for-17 in the quarter -- grabbed a 29-24 lead. Ariza had five points in a 13-4 run that gave Washington a 21-13 lead. But four players scored for the Wolves in a 7-0 run that pulled them within one before Wall scored six points in the final moments of the quarter to help push the lead to five.

The Wolves responded with a 24-14 second quarter in which reserves Chris Johnson and Dante Cunningham each scored six points. Down 40-36, the Wolves ended the half on a 12-3 run in which five players scored, led by Johnson's four points, to take a 48-43 lead.

A back-and-forth third quarter ended with Martell Webster's 3-pointer, which brought the Wizards within 65-63 entering the fourth quarter.

NOTES: Wizards rookie guard Beal missed Wednesday's game with a sprained ankle sustained in Washington's victory over Philadelphia Sunday. Wizards coach Randy Wittman said Beal, who is listed as day-to-day, is not far away from returning. "Each day has been better for him," Wittman said. "He made good strides (Wednesday) from where he was (Tuesday)." ... This was Wittman's first time back in Target Center as a head coach since being fired by the Timberwolves early in the 2008-09 season. Much like in Minnesota, Wittman has been charged with molding a young team in Washington. But his approach has changed, he said. "I'm more patient," he said. ... Wolves forwards Love (hand) and Chase Budinger (knee), both recovering from surgery, could be back soon. Budinger, who had Nov. 13 knee surgery, hopes to be cleared for full practice on Monday. Budinger said Wednesday morning he is two to three weeks away from a return to game action. "I'm feeling good," he said. "Knee's feeling good. A couple days ago I actually jumped off it and had a little dunk, so that was a good little mental hurdle of mine." Love, meanwhile, will meet with his surgeon Wednesday and hopes to be playing within a week of that meeting if all goes well.
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