How it happened: When a team plays with low energy or shoots poorly, it's tough to win in the NBA. When a team plays with low energy and shoots poorly, it's nearly impossible. The Dallas Mavericks, excited about their play in splitting their last two games, found this out on New Year's Day against a team they are used to beating.
These new-look Minnesota Timberwolves, who took the Thunder, Bucks and Heat to the wire in their three opening losses, used a 13-2 run to end the first half with a 50-41 lead. Then the Timberwolves tacked on five more points to start the second half and built up a 60-45 cushion. Dallas rallied in a hurry to get within 67-66 late in the third quarter, but these Ricky Rubio-led Wolves blasted ahead with a 13-3 run.
But the young Wolves are learning how to win and again Dallas chopped down a 12-point lead to two, 84-82, in a matter of minutes in the fourth quarter. The problem is Dallas didn't score again, going the final 5:35 without a point.
Kevin Love, who had another sensational game with 25 points and 17 rebounds, hit consecutive 3-pointers to put Minnesota back up, 90-82.
Rubio, the Spanish rookie who absolutely took the game over, did his thing after a tough shot taken by Dirk Nowitzki. Rubio pushed it into the paint, passed off the dribble to an open Anthony Tolliver, who drained the corner 3-pointer for a 9-0 run and 93-82 cushion.The run ballooned to 15-0 and Minnesota had its first win.
Rubio finished with 15 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Former Mavs guard J.J. Barea, playing with a gimpy hamstring, finished with eight points, three rebounds and two assists.
Although the Mavs gave themselves chances with a couple of spurts, the tone was set in the first half when they shot 37.5 percent, had 10 turnovers and were badly beaten on the boards. Not much really changed in the second half.
These final numbers will not please coach Rick Carlisle: 38.7 percent shooting, 17 turnovers and outrebounded by a whopping, 54-35, the most rebounds Dallas has given up this season.
Nowitzki led Dallas with 21 points on 9-of-20 shooting. Delonte West had 13 points and Jason Terry had 10 off the bench. His partners didn't provide much help. Vince Carter had six points on 1-of-7 shooting and Lamar Odom continued to struggle with just seven points on 2-of-7 shooting with one being a long 3-pointer to beat the first-half buzzer.
What it means: Dallas drops to 1-4 with the lackluster effort and now has a major task ahead with a game Monday night against an Oklahoma City Thunder team that blasted Phoenix on Saturday and took Sunday off. The matchup is not only a difficult back-to-back for the Mavs, but it concludes four games in five nights and starts the second half of a stretch of seven games in 10 nights.
Play of the game: With the Mavs on a 10-0 run and trailing by just two points, 84-82, Love ended the run with his fourth 3-point bucket and on Minnesota's next possession, he virtually ended the game when he hit a step-back 3 to extend the lead to 90-82 with 4:08 to go and Dallas never challenged again.
Stat of the game: Dallas lost to Minnesota for only the second time in 20 games. The 3-point ball had plenty to do with it. Dallas made 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) while Minnesota hit 10-of-22 (45.5 percent), for a better mark than their overall shooting percentage.