The Minnesota Timberwolves ran away from the Orlando Magic in Orlando's 120-115 overtime loss Wednesday night. The Magic, who led by three points with 10 seconds to play, were in a position to spoil Minnesota's home opener until Kevin Love tied the game with a triple from the left wing. Magic guard Arron Afflalo had a shot to win the game as time expired, but his fall-away jumper rattled out of the rim.
Minnesota controlled overtime and closed out the game with free throws. Afflalo led Orlando with 28 points on 22 shots. He also pulled down nine rebounds and dished five assists. Love dominated Orlando to the tune of 31 points and 17 rebounds.
Free throws played a big part in Orlando's demise. The Magic shot 18 but converted on just 11, a 61.1 percent rate. The Timberwolves, however, sunk 28 of their 34 opportunities at the line.
Minnesota jumped out to a 23-12 lead in the first quarter, but the Magic clawed back behind seven early points from E'Twaun Moore. A three-pointer in the final minute brought Moore's first quarter point total to 10. The highlight of the first quarter came when Victor Oladipo drove to his left then spun back to his right for a finger- roll layup to bring Orlando within four.
Minnesota pulled away late in the first, extending its lead to 11 when J.J. Barea knocked down a triple from the right wing. Barea finished the first quarter with nine points off the bench. Six Timberwolves scored at least four points in the first 12 minutes en route to a 38-point first quarter.
Orlando fell behind 46-29 three minutes into the the second quarter. But Orlando rallied again, bringing the game within seven after Afflalo nailed a three-pointer from the right wing. Afflalo finished a baseline layup, then Minnesota's Dante Cunningham countered with a high-flying, one-handed tip as time expired to finish the half.
The bench combination of Oladipo, Moore and Andrew Nicholson scored 27 of Orlando's 52 first-half points. The Magic--who shot a historically bad free throw rate last season--tried only six free throws in the first 24 minutes. Minnesota shot 15, converting 14 of those attempts.
With just under five minutes left in the third quarter, Nikola Vucevic skipped the ball from the low post to Jameer Nelson on the right wing. Nelson knocked down the three-pointer to bring Orlando within one. Ricky Rubio answered on the next possession with a three of his own, then finished a flip shot in traffic to extend Minnesota's lead to a half-dozen.
Vucevic heated up near the end of the third. He nailed a fall-away jumper from the baseline, then drained a mid-range jumper on the next possession. Nicholson scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds before picking up his fifth foul with 35.2 seconds left in the third quarter. Afflalo scored nine points and pulled in four rebounds in the third quarter. He tweaked his ankle but walked it off.
Orlando trailed, 87-80, heading into the final period. A Nelson layup capped a 6-0 Magic run, bringing Orlando to within three. A mid-range jumper from Cunningham stopped the run.
The Magic took the lead, 97-96, off a Vucevic roll and finish the basket. Kevin Martin knocked down a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession. Then Solomon Jones--who played surprisingly well in his crunch-time minutes--dunked in an offensive board to regain the lead. Martin missed a three on Minnesota's next possession and Jacque Vaughn called a timeout to talk things over with his young Magic squad.
Vaughn drew up a off-ball double-screen for Afflalo out of the timeout, but the former UCLA Bruin missed. Jones was fouled fighting for the offensive rebound and was sent to the free throw line where he missed both free throws. Corey Brewer finished a putback from the weak side of the floor on the 'Wolves' next possession to put them back on top by a point.
Afflalo's mid-range shot rattled out on Orlando's next trip up the floor. Oladipo collected a Love missed three on the next defensive possession but Vucevic missed a running left hook. Minnesota coach Rick Adelman called a timeout with 1:15 left to play and the 'Wolves on top by one. A Minnesota turnover out of the timeout gave Orlando the chance to take the lead. But a Nelson three-pointer clanked off the back rim.
Another Minnesota turnover gave Afflalo a wide-open transition layup and the Magic a one-point lead. Rubio missed a pull up jumper and Oladipo collected the miss. The Magic rookie was fouled and sent to the line for two free throws, where he sunk both attempts, giving Orlando a 103-100 lead.
That's when Adelman drew up a play that gave Love a wide open three-point shot. The star big man calmly sank it, tying the score at 103 with 10.1 seconds left. Vaughn gave the ball to Afflalo in a one-on-one isolation but the seven-year veteran wasn't able to convert, sending the game to overtime.
The Timberwolves pushed the lead to four with 2:36 left in overtime after Martin converted an and-1. A Nikola Pekovic layup pushed Minnesota's lead to six. Orlando wasn't able to overcome that deficit, losing its second game in as many nights and firmly planting itself first atop the "Riggin' for Wiggins" leaderboard.
What's nice is that Orlando has fought in its first two losses. Neither game was a blowout and, except for the final quarter against the Pacers Tuesday night, the team had a legitimate chance at winning. That's what Magic fans should be looking for this year. The team doesn't have to be good, but the hope is that they are at least watchable.