Following their emotional come from behind win against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Timberwolves now turn their attention to the Denver Nuggets, who also won their first game of the season.
Minnesota is playing this season with heavy hearts after the death of longtime Minnesota head coach Flip Saunders, who was also the President of Basketball Operations for the team. In Wednesday's game, the Wolves were down all game, until a massive comeback led by veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who scored a career-high 28 points, along with 14 assists to help rally the team from a 16-point deficit.
"I think we had a little help today," Rubio said. "It's been a tough week. It's hard to explain. Everybody went through a lot of pain. But even though Flip's gone, he will stay with us forever."
"We're elated," Minnesota coach Sam Mitchell said. "Coach would be proud of them. I know he's looking down and he's proud of these young guys, the way they fought."
After trailing for most of the fame, the Wolves took the lead with 2:11 left in the game, but the Lakers put together a nine-point rally to cut the Timberwolves lead to just one point. The Lakers then had a chance to win it when Lou Williams took a layup at the buzzer, but missed.
"We stayed together as a team, something that we've been doing a lot this week," said Karl-Anthony Towns, who had 14 points and 12 rebounds in his NBA debut. "(We're) working together as a family and doing a great job of keeping his vision alive. We just seemed to have Coach Saunders on our side, especially with Lou Williams shooting a floater for the game. Nine times out of 10, he hits that. But I think we had a sixth man on the floor."
Denver, meanwhile, had an easier time against the Houston Rockets, as they cruised to a 105-85 win despite James Harden putting up 22 points.
"We worked hard enough to come in here and expect to win a game," Denver coach Mike Malone said after the game. "This should not come as a shock. Everybody outside of our organization can pick us last if they want, but we feel we have a chance to do something special this year and I think the way we played tonight showed that promise."
The two teams met four times last season, with Minnesota winning just one of those matchups, a 113-105 victory over the Nuggets on January 17th. In that game, the Timberwolves were led by 31 points from then rookie sensation Andrew Wiggins, who now is entering his second season in the NBA.
The Timberwolves will be a man short, as they have ruled center Nikola Pekovic out for the game due to surgery that he had during the offseason on his right Achilles. That could potentially pave the way for Minnesota native Tyus Jones to make his NBA debut. Jones was drafted by the Cleveland Cavilers, but was quickly traded to Minnesota in exchange for draft picks.