Rubio Rallies Wolves to 87-82 Win Over Wizards
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MINNEAPOLIS — Ricky Rubio had 15 points, 11 assists, seven rebounds and six steals to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 87-82 victory over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night that snapped a six-game losing streak.
Derrick Williams added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, and J.J. Barea scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.
John Wall had 19 points and seven assists, and Trevor Ariza added 16 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Wizards, who were missing leading scorer Bradley Beal because of a sprained left ankle. Washington turned the ball over 24 times, leading to 30 points by Minnesota.
Washington led by eight early in the fourth, but Rubio’s defense keyed a 21-9 surge by the Timberwolves over the final 9:30.
The fiery Spaniard made the play of the game with 30 seconds remaining and the Wolves clinging to a one-point lead. Shaking off a sore left hand, he dove to the floor to poke a loose ball away from Wall and push it ahead to Barea for a layup that gave Minnesota an 85-82 lead with 28.2 seconds left.
After Minnesota stumbled through a miserable stretch of 22 losses in 25 games, a relieved Rubio flung the ball into the stands as the horn sounded.
Luke Ridnour scored 15 points and Dante Cunningham added 11 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves.
Nene had 12 points and eight boards and Emeka Okafor added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Wizards, who squandered a 44-34 advantage on the boards against the short-handed Wolves.
The Wizards turned the ball over 17 times in the first three quarters, but they opened the fourth quarter with a 10-0 run to take control. Wall hit a free throw after a technical foul on Ridnour, Nene scored on an easy layup and Kevin Seraphin backed the smaller Cunningham down low for a post-up bucket to give Washington a 73-65 lead.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman put Rubio back in the game, and he came up with two steals, fed Barea for a 3 and hit two free throws to get Minnesota back in it. Barea’s second 3-pointer a minute later tied the game at 77.
Wizards coach Randy Wittman was an assistant in Minnesota under Flip Saunders and also was the head coach here from 2007-09. He went 36-105 with the rebuilding team during that time and was having just as much trouble since taking over for the fired Saunders in Washington until Wall hit the court this season. The hard-driving Wittman has tried to be more patient with this young Wizards team, and he’s had to be.
Injuries to Wall, Nene and Okafor gutted the Wizards at the start of the season. They slogged through a miserable 5-28 start, but they are 14-12 with Wall in the lineup.
One of the few bright spots for the Timberwolves over the last month has been Rubio’s return to form from his torn ACL last March. He made his season debut in December, and has gradually gotten his game back. The minutes restrictions have been lifted and the behind-the-back passes and instinctive perimeter defense have returned.
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