DALLAS (AP) – The Dallas Mavericks got championship rings. Kevin Love got a big new contract and the victory.
Love had 31 points and 10 rebounds after signing his maximum four-year extension with the Minnesota Timberwolves, who handed the defending NBA champions another ceremonious loss, 105-90 Wednesday night.
“It’s a good day, putting aside everything that happened earlier in the day and focusing on the game and getting a big win,” said Love, the 23-year-old forward who after the morning shootaround signed the extension worth more than $60 million. “We made big stops down the stretch. You can see us growing as a team.”
The end of the Mavericks’ seven-game home winning streak, and their franchise-record streak of holding 15 consecutive opponents under 100 points, came after they finally received their championship rings during a pregame ceremony.
That presentation came exactly a month after Dallas raised the championship banner before the season opener. They trailed by 21 points at halftime that day on the way to a 105-94 loss to Miami in an NBA finals rematch that was never really that close.
“I know everybody is making a big thing about the ring tonight, it’s a great thing to receive the ring,” Shawn Marion said. “We still needed to win this game. That’s what we’re trying to do right now. We’re trying to focus on what’s at hand right now and the current season and focus on trying to take our baby steps to get to where we want to be. Tonight we just took a hop back.”
Dallas led by 14 points before halftime against the Timberwolves. But Minnesota finished the first half with eight consecutive points in the final minute, then had a 13-4 run in the first 5 minutes of the third quarter for the lead.
The Mavericks managed to tie it at 70 on two free throws by Marion with 3 minutes left in the third quarter. But a minute later, Love’s 3-pointer broke that tie and put the Timberwolves ahead to stay.
That was one of four 3-pointers by Love, who also had one at the end of the first half to get the Timberwolves within 54-52.
His big game, along with 17 points and 12 assists from Ricky Rubio in 46 1/2 minutes, ruined another celebratory night in Dallas.
“We did,” Love said. “It was fun.”
Wayne Ellington had 16 points while Nikola Pekovic had 13 for the Timberwolves, who also beat Dallas 99-82 on New Year’s Day.
Jason Terry led Dallas with 17 points, while Marion had 15 points. Brendan Haywood had 10 rebounds.
Before the game, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle presented the diamond-encrusted championship rings to NBA finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd and seven other current players who were on last year’s team. Also getting their rings during the ceremony were retired player Peja Stojakovic and J.J. Barea, who now plays for the Timberwolves and part of the reason the ceremony was held when it was.
Barea, who missed his fourth consecutive game for Minnesota because of a sprained left ankle, received a huge ovation when he was the first player introduced by Carlisle. The rest of his Timberwolves teammates had retreated to the locker room before the ring ceremony.
Nowitzki was dressed in a suit during the third of at least four games he’s sitting out to improve game conditioning and his sore right knee.
Dallas was up 54-44 when Kidd hit a 3-pointer on a pass from Terry with 1:07 left in the first half.
“The game turned at the end of the first half,” Carlisle said. “We lost some concentration. … Look, we didn’t deserve to win, and frankly, after that period at the end of the second quarter, we really didn’t compete at any kind of level at all.”
Ellington rebounded his own miss and made a layup to start that quick Minnesota surge before halftime. After Kidd missed a 3-pointer, Rubio made one before Love’s half-ending trey set up by Terry’s only turnover.
“Our guys really came out with attitude that we could win this game,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “The end of the first half was huge. We cut it to two and got back in the game, then had a great second half.”
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