Kevin Love returned with fury in his first game back for the Minnesota Timberwolves since a broken hand prematurely ended his 2012-13 season.
The cornerstone forward had 31 points and 17 rebounds and the Wolves opened their 2013-14 season with a 120-115 overtime win against the Orlando Magic Wednesday night at Target Center.
Wolves guard Ricky Rubio also earned a double-double to start the year, getting 13 points and 11 assists. Shooting guard Kevin Martin added 23 points.
Aaron Aflallo led Orlando (0-2) with 28 points, and center Nikola Vucevic had 22 points and 16 rebounds.
Minnesota (1-0) is seeking to refocus the narrative back to contending for a playoff spot after an injury-plagued campaign last year produced more drama than excitement. Dominating local headlines was a perception of disgruntlement from Love, leading to some fan negativity.
The biggest change the Wolves made was replacing David Kahn with Flip Saunders as President of Basketball Operations, hopefully correcting what media and fans alike saw as a major obstruction to their chances of success.
Minnesota’s offense was overflowing in the first quarter, scoring 38 points to build an 11-point lead at the end of the period. The Wolves led by as much as 17 early in the second before the Magic slowly chipped away at the deficit.
An Afflalo layup and a pair of Victor Oladipo free throws in the final 30 seconds of regulation gave Orlando a 103-100 lead, making Minnesota’s weary fans worried that another collapse was unfolding.
Following a 20-second timeout, Rubio found a wide-open Love, who hit a 25-foot three-pointer with 10.1 seconds left. Love gestured to the electrified crowd of 17,988. Afflalo missed a fade-away shot in the Magic’s last possession to force overtime.
The Wolves never trailed in the extra period, and assumed the lead for good on a Nikola Pekovic layup.
Orlando had slightly better shooting numbers, hitting 47 percent of their field goals against Minnesota’s 42 percent. The Wolves made up that ground through free throws, hitting 28 of 34 while the Magic hit just 11 of 18. Love hit 12 of 16 attempts from the line and Martin drained all nine of his free throws.
Minnesota had never played an overtime game in a season opener until Wednesday night, which officially launched their 25th season of operation as a franchise.
None of the Wolves rookies saw playing time against the Magic. Derrick Williams, the second-overall pick in the 2011 draft, also did not play.