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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Even when his Minnesota Timberwolves were down by three with 12.5 seconds to play in the game, Kevin Love never stopped believing that they would come out of there with a win.
He backed up that belief with one heck of a shot to put them in position to do just that.
Love had 31 points and 17 rebounds and hit the game-tying 3-pointer with 10.2 seconds left to force overtime in the Timberwolves’ 120-115 victory over the Orlando Magic on Wednesday night.
Ricky Rubio had 13 points, 11 assists and three steals for the Timberwolves, who led by 17 in the first half and survived a major scare from a young and rebuilding team.
“I personally knew we’d win the whole time,” Love said. “I told the guys with two or three minutes left, just keep playing through it. It’s going to be a learning experience for us, but we’re going to win this game. They all agreed.”
Arron Afflalo had 28 points and nine rebounds and Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 16 rebounds for the Magic. Orlando was playing on the second night of a back-to-back, but led by three with 12.5 seconds to play.
“That was fun. That was fun to be a part of,” Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. “I’d be even in a better mood if we came out victorious, but great effort by our guys to give ourselves a chance to win the ball game.”
Love made a 3-pointer just over two seconds later to tie the game and Afflalo missed a turn-around baseline jumper at the buzzer that would have won the game in regulation.
“A little more upset about the 3 they got off,” Afflalo said. “We should’ve just had a little more communication and not even been in that position.
“It kind of hurts more when you feel like you’ve got the game won, after all we’ve been through last season and trying to build this season, we want to start capitalizing on these type of games.”
Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin hit three-point plays in overtime for a 113-107 lead with 2:36 to play, and the Wolves just breathed a big sigh of relief at the start of a season that begins with high expectations.
Corey Brewer finished with 16 points and Martin scored 23 points on 6-for-19 shooting.
Jameer Nelson had 18 points and eight assists and Victor Oladipo had 14 points, six rebounds and four assists for Orlando.
But it was a triumphant return for Love, who played in just 18 games last season due to a twice-broken hand.
The injury issues, and Love’s perceived unhappiness with the organization under previous president David Kahn soured him with some fans. He spent the summer working out harder than ever to be ready to reclaim his status as the league’s top power forward.
If any fans had any lingering hard feelings, they were buried with that big 3-pointer from the left elbow.
“That’s why he gets paid the big bucks,” Brewer said with a smile. “We knew we were going to him and he made the shot.”
The lead swelled to 17 points early in the second quarter, but coach Rick Adelman’s concerns about this team’s makeup surfaced later in the period.
After a rough shooting night in the opener against the rugged Pacers, Afflalo found the groove in the third quarter. His 3-pointer cut Minnesota’s lead to 69-68 midway through the quarter and the Magic trailed by seven heading into the fourth.
All looked lost when Oladipo hit two free throws for a 103-100 lead with 12.5 seconds to go. Love came off a screen, rose up and swished the big shot, then hollered at the delirious crowd.
The Wolves had worked on that exact play in practice on Tuesday, but Love didn’t make the shot.
“I’d rather make it in a game than in practice,” Love said with a chuckle. “So we’re happy we converted.”
NOTES: The Magic again were without Tobias Harris (sprained left ankle) and Doron Lamb (sprained right ankle). Lamb is on the road trip with the team, meaning he is likely closer to playing than Harris. … Rubio has at least one steal in 22 straight games, the second-longest active streak in the NBA. … Derrick Williams, the No. 2 overall pick in 2011, did not play for the Wolves.
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