The Wolves came back from down 12 points in the 4th quarter to defeat Blake Griffin's division-leading LA Clippers 101-98 on a last second buzzer beating 3 pointer by Kevin Love in front of a sold out crowd at Staples Center.
I was listening to the WCCO radio broadcast as the Wolves staggered behind the Clippers for most of the game trailing by double-digits. By the 4th quarter I was already in bed, lights out, but I just couldn't turn the game off. This wouldn't have happened over the past few years, but this team has got something.
Then the Timberlobos made a run. Ricky Rubio hadn't scored all game, but he started getting to the line, hitting free throws in the clutch. Finally, in the closing minute, Rubio hit his only basket from the field - a GAME-TYING 3 POINTER.
Billups tried to run out the remaining clock, missed a potential game-winner, and KLove grabbed the rebound with 1.5 seconds left. Coach Adelman's final play somehow got KLove alone off the inbounds pass for the clincher and a highlight clip to boost Love's All-Star stock.
That's 3 in a row for the Timberlobos.
Two years ago, I was shooting pool at The Park Tavern in St. Louis Park, MN when I overheard a guy say that he had bet $500 that the Timberwolves would win three-in-a-row at some point that season. Every time the team won two-in-a-row that year, I thought of him. And every time, they lost the third. Tonight, I hope that guy found his way through some double-or-nothings.
The Wolves are also 7-5 since losing their first three games (by a combined 9 points). Almost a quarter of the way through this strike-shortened season, they're just one game below .500. I joked to a friend just yesterday that mediocrity never felt so good - and it's true coming off three seasons as the NBA's doormat.
But win-loss records aside, you can see this team is more than mediocre. They got something. The tenacity of Kevin Love. The spark and sizzle of Rubio - El Kid. The relentlessness of Ridnour. The dark horse Darko (season high 22 points tonight). The strength of Derrick Williams. The Able Man Rick Adelman. Hey man, this is fun.
But I think Ricky, in his surprisingly poignant English and mature professionalism which are becoming as dependable as, well, El Kid himself in the clutch, said it best in the WCCO postgame interview: that the Timberlobos have been in these situations already this season - playing from behind, tight 4th quarters, final shots - and "we learn," he said.
So far, that is the difference between this year's team and those talented, young squads previous. The ability to learn and build from both early setbacks and success.
And what are we, the Timberlobos fan base, learning in return?
To stay up and stay tuned in, until the very end.