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Rubio's triple-double lifts Timberwolves past star-less Spurs

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 13 2013 08:23:13 AM CDT
basketball on court

iStock / 33ft

MINNEAPOLIS -

You might not have recognized those San Antonio Spurs that lost 107-83 at Minnesota on Tuesday night, one night after the team with the NBA's second-best record thumped Oklahoma City at home.

You definitely wouldn't have known those Minnesota Timberwolves.

Even Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he didn't know his own team, the one that walked into Target Center as the NBA's worst 3-point shooting team and left as blowout winners after shooting so deftly from there for one blessed night.

"No, no, I don't know where it came from," Adelman said afterward. "I hope we didn't use it all in one night."

The Wolves had shot 29.3 percent from 3-point range -- a pace that would be the worst in NBA history if they keep it up all season -– until Tuesday.

That's when they made 12 of 20 3-pointers -- that's a season-best 60 percent -- on a night when point guard Ricky Rubio also reached his first career triple-double.

After flirting with such a statistical achievement, Rubio delivered his first in the NBA with a 21-point, 13-rebound, 12-assist performance.

"That's the first of many to come in his career," teammate J.J. Barea said.

The Spurs flew to Minnesota after Monday's important victory over the Thunder without starters Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard while the battered Wolves once again played on without Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko.

The Wolves had lost 24 of their last 28 games before Tuesday, including consecutive 20-plus point losses their last two times out.

But this time, they turned the game after falling behind 14-4 early with a 29-10 in which they almost couldn't miss.

The Wolves made 5-of-8 3-pointers alone in that second quarter when their reserves outscored the Spurs' bench 24-2, thanks in part to two 3-pointers each by Barea and rookie guard Alexey Shved.

"They made threes, they are 30th in the league in making 3's," said Spurs forward Stephen Jackson, whose team has won four of its last five. "This is a game we shouldn't have lost. They made shots."

The Timberwolves trailed by four points after a quarter and led by 15 at halftime after they scored the second quarter's first 12 points and just kept going against a Spurs team that couldn't find much energy all night.

"The bottom line is, we played a terrible game," Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said.

The Wolves, meanwhile, stole from the Spurs' playbook and moved the ball efficiently almost all night, racking up eight assists in that decisive second quarter and 30 for the game.

Rubio led everybody with 12 of them, but perhaps more impressive was his 13 rebounds.

"Not very many point guards get 12 defensive rebounds," Adelman said. "He is playing with such resolve, trying to get us over the hump."

Rubio had an explanation for that triple-double and that rebounding night.

"With Kevin and Pek out, there are a lot of rebounds," Rubio said. "Stats are the last thing I try to watch. Victories are the most important thing. It's good to have a triple double, but especially a win against them. I know they got Tim Duncan and Leonard and Tony Parker, but they are a great team and we played great today."

NOTES: The Spurs said both Duncan and Leonard missed Tuesday's game, and the trip, because of a sore knee. ... Wolves forward Chase Budinger has been cleared for contact practice, but given the team's busy schedule, those practices could be few and far between. Budinger, out since November because of a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, consulted with Florida surgeon James Andrews by phone on Tuesday and given clearance. Budinger said he'll need at least one full practice with his teammates to test his knee and conditioning before he'll be able to play. The Wolves aren't scheduled to practice until Saturday and likely will only practice twice in the next 10 days. ... Love hopes to get the OK to practice after he visits his NYC hand surgeon Wednesday. Love, too, likely will need some practice time before he'll play in a game. He hasn't played since breaking his right shooting hand for the second time this season Jan. 3 in Denver. He and Budinger likely will work out 2-on-2 together to get themselves into shape when the team isn't practicing. ... Wolves starters Andrei Kirilenko (strain calf) and Nikola Pekovic (abdominal strain) remained out Tuesday and are not expected to play Wednesday at Indiana.