- Zach Harper, NBA
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Think about the last time the Minnesota Timberwolves had a winning record more than a handful of games into the season.
Having a tough time?
It was Jan. 21, 2007, when the Wolves were defeated by the Phoenix Suns to lose their third straight game and drop to 20-19. They would lose three more games in this stretch and not see a winning record this late into the season for a long time. But after reaching a 12-12 record on Saturday thanks to a 25-point, 18-rebound effort by Kevin Love against the Rockets, the Wolves were left with the task of filling the void of a suspended Love to defeat a hot Kings team in order to crawl over .500 for the first time in five years.
“It’s pretty hard to make up pretty close to 30 and 15," Derrick Williams said of Love.
The Wolves did a pretty good job without him, holding off a late Sacramento Kings rally in an 86-84 victory to improve to 13-12 overall.
Williams, who started in Love's place, finished with 14 points and eight rebounds and hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 56 seconds left. Michael Beasley came off the bench to score 17 points (although on 21 shots) and grab 14 rebounds. Ricky Rubio tied his career-high 14 assists. But it was Nikola Pekovic who ended up being the dominant player on the floor for the Wolves.
Pek led all scorers with 23 points, grabbed 10 rebounds and recorded two blocks and three steals. He pushed around DeMarcus Cousins and the rest of the Kings' interior like they were small children. He used his strength to catch the Kings off guard before using post moves on Sacramento's second-year center that even shocked some teammates.
“Some of those moves, I’ve never seen him do before,” Williams added. “He’s so strong; I think he’s the strongest guy in the NBA. Pek is just one of a kind with his strength.”
We haven’t seen this kind of success from the Wolves in a long time. If they can find a way to persevere in Memphis Wednesday night in the second and last game of Love's two-game suspension, it could be a long time before we think about them being a losing team once again.
Zach Harper is the host of ESPN.com's Daily Dime Live.