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Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012

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It stops here: Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio dribbles around the Thunder's Reggie Jackson during his team's 99-93 win on Thursday that ended the Thunder's 12-game win streak. AP

Barea catches fire in fourth as Timberwolves cool off Thunder

AP

MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder have been blowing the doors off the rest of the Western Conference in these first two months, playing with the swagger born of their run to the NBA Finals last season.

J.J. Barea and the Minnesota Timberwolves tried to send a message on Thursday night that a second straight trip isn't going to come easy.

Playing with the tenacity that made him so important to the Mavericks' run to the title two years ago, Barea scored 14 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Timberwolves snap Oklahoma City's 12-game winning streak with a 99-93 victory over the Thunder.

Kevin Love had 28 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists and Nikola Pekovic had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. But it was Barea who was the key, scoring 12 straight at one point for the Wolves to hold off the team with the best record in the league.

"It's important," coach Rick Adelman said of beating the best in the West. "But I would like to see us get to a point where this is not a big deal. It's a big game against the best team, but this is something we can do."

Kevin Durant had 33 points, seven rebounds and six assists and Russell Westbrook had 30 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists for the Thunder, who had not lost a game since Nov. 23 at Boston.

"It's not the end of the world. A lot of people said the world is going to end today, tomorrow, but it's not the end of the world," Durant quipped. "We lost to a good team (Thursday). They came out and played extremely hard and they beat us. We're 21-5 and we've just got to go back and work."

That it was Barea, and not the Olympian Love or the sensation Ricky Rubio who was chiefly responsible was the biggest surprise of all.

Barea didn't join the Timberwolves until training camp had already started last season, then languished through the first injury-plagued year of his career. Finally healthy, he's getting back to being the super pest that helped the Mavericks to the title two years ago.

Heat 110, Mavericks 95

In Dallas, LeBron James scored 24 points with some early baskets on nifty passes from Dwyane Wade, and Miami rolled to a victory over the injury-plagued Mavericks.

James has scored at least 20 points in all 23 of the Heat's games, the longest streak to start a season since Karl Malone's 24 in a row in the 1989-90 season.

Dallas, still waiting for the season debut of 11-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki following right knee surgery, was also without starting point guard Derek Fisher (right knee) and post players Elton Brand (right groin) and Brandan Wright (right ankle).

The Heat never trailed after James drove for a short floater 3 minutes into the game to make it 6-4. Wade had 19 points and six assists while Chris Bosh had 17 points.

Rookie Jae Crowder had 15 points to lead six Dallas players in double figures. Dahntay Jones and Bernard James had 12 points each.

Trail Blazers 101, Nuggets 93

In Portland, J.J. Hickson had 18 points and 18 rebounds for his sixth straight double-double, and the Trail Blazers picked up a win over Denver.

Nicolas Batum had 22 points to give Portland its first four-game winning streak of the season despite missing forward LaMarcus Aldridge.

The Nuggets were 0-for-22 from 3-point range, breaking the NBA record of 20 misses set by the Trail Blazers in a game against Toronto last week. Seventy-four of Denver's points came in the paint.

Portland led by as many as 18 in the first half and while the Nuggets were able to close the gap, they were never able to pull even.



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