MINNEAPOLIS – It’s as if Ricky Rubio never left.
Zipping passes between his legs for the first time in nine months, Rubio had nine assists and eight points in 18 minutes to help the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 114-106 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Saturday night.
Andrei Kirilenko scored five of his 14 points in overtime while Rubio watched from the bench because of a minutes restriction on his surgically repaired left knee.
“I didn’t feel nothing in the knee,” Rubio said. “I feel great. ... I feel 100 percent. I have some issues in other parts now, but it’s just like a normal thing.”
Nikola Pekovic scored 21 points for the Timberwolves, who won their fourth consecutive game despite playing without All-Star Kevin Love (illness).
O.J. Mayo had 20 points, six assists and five rebounds, and Shawn Marion had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who led by 13 early before Rubio came off the bench for the first time since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in his left knee in March.
“He brings us all energy, man. No words can really describe it,” forward Derrick Williams said. “You’ve just got to feel it out there on the court.”
Alexey Shved had 18 points and six assists, and the Wolves scored the first 10 points in overtime to send an amped crowd home happy.
Derek Fisher also scored 20 points for the Mavericks, who turned the ball over 20 times. They led 98-96 after Fisher’s four-point play with 2:50 to go.
Rubio, the No. 5 overall pick in 2009, fed Kirilenko which led to a pair of free throws, then knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 100.
But he missed an open 3-pointer with a few seconds remaining that would have won the game in regulation.
No matter. Kirilenko hit two free throws, scored a three-point play, and Pekovic finished the Mavericks off with a three-point play of his own.
“It’s amazing. They give me a great gift, that ‘W’ in overtime,” Rubio said. “I think we’re going to do big things with this team this year. Just showing how we played in the overtime. ... It was amazing.”
More than 18,000 packed into Target Center in anticipation of Rubio’s return and erupted at the mere sight of his face on the video board during pregame festivities. He received a standing ovation when he got off the bench to enter the game for the first time with 1:47 to go in the first quarter.
The Wolves were down 28-18 at that point and badly in need of a boost.
With chants of “Ole! Ole ole ole!” serving as the backdrop, the flash that had been absent for nine long months came quickly.
In his fourth minute of game time, Rubio put his back to the basket on the left wing, then bounced a pass between his legs that zipped right past Mavericks forward Elton Brand’s legs as well to an open Greg Stiemsma for a layup that sent the Target Center crowd into a frenzy.