Photo - Hannah Foslien (Getty Images)
By Joe Perovich
On the heels of their 9th consecutive season without a playoff appearance, the Minnesota Timberwolves had an extra incentive to start out a promising season on anything but a sour note. "Crisis" averted.
The Timberwolves beat the Orlando Magic 120-115 in overtime, as Kevin Love sent a much-needed jolt through the Target Center on game tying three-pointer with 10.1 seconds left in regulation. Orlando’s Aaron Afflalo’s final attempt to complete the upset was a touch short as the buzzer sounded, and the Timberwolves rode a necessary momentum to an opening night victory.
Love finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds, 11 of which came before the halfway point of the third quarter. Newcomers Corey Brewer and Kevin Martin both finished second and third in points respectively (Martin 23, Brewer 16). Kevin Martin’s debut was a bit of an up-and-down affair, as he shot just 6-19 from the field. His night was saved however, as his efficiency at the free throw line proved spectacular. Martin made all nine free throws he attempted.
The debuts weren’t simply exclusive to the home team. Victor Oladipo, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, appeared convincingly undaunted by the NBA’s quickened pace and fertile talent pool. Aside from your typical rookie turnovers, Oladipo aggravated the Timberwolves with his disruptive play and all-around style contributions that made him such a fan favorite at the University of Indiana. A quick scan of the box score doesn’t suffice in this case, nor does it illustrate the positive impact he had through much of the contest. With just two games recorded as a professional basketball player, the "eye test" revealed a Magic offense that catered to Oladipo’s strengths and a green light in his arsenal to run isolation sets for himself whenever the rookie sees fit.
Victor Oladipo, you’ll remember, was highly coveted by the Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Flip Saunders around last June’s draft. Neither Gorgui Dieng or Shabazz Muhammad, the team’s actual draft selections, saw minutes of game time Wednesday.
Known commodities like J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham both had nights off the bench that will be unheralded, but both proved indispensable on a night where the Magic drew dangerously close to playing spoiler. Barea scored nine points in the last 91 seconds of the first quarter, and Cunningham made a valiant attempt to put a stranglehold on the backup power forward position, appearing in just about every positive play in some effect when on the court.
Kevin Love’s game tying three-point field goal near the end of regulation was laden with some unmistakable parallels to his game-winning three-point attempt just a year and a half ago versus the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center.
Both shots came off the exact same play. Both shots concluded with the exact same result. There’s more to come, I assure you.