Timberwolves stop skid with road win

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves snapped a three-game skid by picking up a rare road victory, beating the Dallas Mavericks 112-106 on Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
The Timberwolves (9-9) desperately needed the victory before the second game of a back-to-back on Sunday night at Oklahoma City. Then they are off to Mexico City for Wednesday's Global Games matchup against the San Antonio Spurs.
"It was very important," Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said of the victory on the first leg of the trip. "Like I told them, it doesn't mean you can't come out and win tomorrow. You have to get the first win and then you have to build off it. Thee are teams that turn things around and get going the other direction."
For the Mavericks (10-8), it was only the second loss on their home floor, but also their second consecutive defeat after blowing a 17-point lead on Friday night at Atlanta. The Mavs have now lost four of their last five after starting the season 9-4.
Afterward, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle seemed to be putting his team's character to the test as it heads into two off-days before playing host to the Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday.
"We're going to learn about our team right now," Carlisle said. "Lose four out of five, have a tough loss like last night and then another tough one like tonight -- it's going to test the togetherness and the collective will. We're going to take a day off tomorrow. We've got to have some kind of a quality practice on Monday and then Tuesday we've got to get back at it, get whatever healthy bodies we have out there and get everybody playing at their best level."
Dallas, playing without injured starting point guard Jose Calderon, cut Minnesota's 84-77 lead at the end of three quarters to 92-90 with 5:55 to go in the fourth quarter.
Wolves shooting guard Kevin Martin followed with two free throws and a jumper to extend the lead to 96-90. A Ricky Rubio baseline drive and then a long two-pointer and a 3-pointer from Martin made it 103-92 with 3:12 to go to virtually ice the game.
Martin, who went 10 of 11 from the free throw line, finished with a game-high 27 points and knocked down three 3-pointers as Minnesota went 11 of 26 from beyond the arc.
Center Nikola Pekovic dominated inside with 21 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field and nine rebounds. Forward Kevin Love was kept pretty well in check with 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting (and 11 rebounds), although he got free to bury a key 3-pointer with 1:55 to go.
"You can't use any excuses, but it's a tough schedule for us right now and we just need to fight through it and claw out as many games as we can," Love said. "We feel like the Mavericks are a very good team and to close them out tonight was big for us.
For lack of a better term, we just want to tread water until we don't have to play 18 games in a month. December will kind of calm down for us, but we've played a lot of back-to-backs -- we've got another one tomorrow in a very good team in Oklahoma City -- so we just need to keep building."
Rubio, who stripped Nowitzki with less than a minute to play as Dallas was in desperation mode, contributed 12 points and seven assists, and forward Corey Brewer knocked down three 3-pointers in scoring 13 points.
Dallas was paced by shooting guard Monta Ellis' 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting from the field and six assists.
Forward Dirk Nowitzki scored 23 points -- 10 in the fourth quarter -- and Dalembert finished with 12 points and seven rebounds. Forward Shane Marion had just six points and struggling sixth man Vince Carter was just 4-for-12 from the floor for 10 points.
Without Calderon, Dallas had to go with two rookie point guards in Gal Mekel, who got the start, and Shane Larkin. Mekel finished with six points and seven assists, but was just 3-of-12 from the field. Larkin was 2 of 6 with four points off the bench.
Calderon is listed as day to day with a right ankle bone bruise. Veteran point guard Devin Harris has yet to play this season because of a toe injury. He's expected to make his debut sometime before Christmas.
"It's challenging with our young guys," Carlisle said. "I thought both guys did some good things, but experience is so valuable and so important down the stretch. I put Monta at the point to finish. I would by no means that the loss is on the point guards. I think we win and lose together, but our lack of experience there tonight was a factor."
NOTES: Mavs starting PG Jose Calderon did not play after sustaining a bone bruise to his right ankle during Friday's game at Atlanta. Rookie PG Gal Mekel, a native of Israel, made his first career start against Minnesota's Ricky Rubio. ... Mavs SG Monta Ellis is averaging 6.4 free throws a game, but he entered Saturday's game having not attempted a single free throw in the previous two games. ... Timberwolves F Luc Mbah a Moute, traded recently from Sacramento for F Derrick Williams, made his debut with his new club. ... Minnesota is on an odd road trip in which it plays three games, but only two are actual "road" games. The Timberwolves play at Oklahoma City on Sunday and then face the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday in Mexico City, a game that counts as the Timberwolves' home game. Coach Rick Adelman said he is not in favor of international travel during the regular season.

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