Al Jefferson lived up to his nickname Wednesday night, coming up big on the defensive end in the waning moments of the game to help lead a historic Minnesota comeback victory, 95-93, at the Target Center.
|Al stopped Brook Lopez to preserve Minnesota's win in the season opener (Getty Images).|
Al made a critical block on New Jersey Nets' seven-foot center Brook Lopez with 26 seconds left. Lopez was maneuvering in the lane for a short hook shot that could have tied the score, but he was rejected by the Minnesota center.
"Lopez was having a heck of a game," Al said. "He probably would have made that shot."
No. 25’s block was a microcosm of the Wolves' defensive revival in the second half. Lopez had a game-high 27 points but was scoreless in the fourth quarter. Trailing 55-43 at halftime, head coach Kurt Rambis had choice words for his team after allowing Lopez several uncontested baskets in the first three quarters.
The word Wolves players remembered the most during Rambis' halftime critique was "soft."
"I'm a man, and I don't like being called soft," Al said.
The Wolves were far from soft in the fourth quarter as they closed the game on a 24-6 run to steal the victory.
Wednesday’s contest ended in dramatic fashion as Al tipped a missed Johnny Flynn jumper to teammate Damien Wilkins who grabbed the loose ball and banked in a 10-foot shot as time expired, shocking a Nets team that blew a 19-point second-half lead.
No. 25 finished with 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and a crucial block while only playing 24 minutes due to early foul trouble.
Rookie point guard Johnny Flynn led the late charge on the offensive end, scoring 11 points with less than seven minutes to play and his team down 16.
"He just kept attacking and the referees just had to call fouls," Al said. "I tip my hat off to him. He's the reason we won the game."
The Wolves (1-0) face the Cleveland Cavaliers (0-2) at the Target Center. It will be a matchup of two dominate paint players as Big Al bangs against new Cavs acquisition Shaquille O’Neal.
Last year, No. 25 played Cleveland only once, tallying 20 points, 11 rebounds, and a block.
Flynn leads Timberwolves' pack over Nets (NBA.com, October 29, 2009)
Big rally adds up to Timberwolves' victory in season opener (St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 29, 2009)
Flynn scores 13 of 18 in fourth to rally Wolves to win (AP, October, 28, 2009)