Ricky Rubio has made his triumphant return to the courts…
Playing in a game for the first time in nine months, the 22-year-old Spanish Minnesota Timberwolves star made his comeback in impressive fashion.
Rubio had nine assists and eight points in his 18 minutes of play on Saturday night to help lift the Timberwolves to a 114-106 overtime victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
Andrei Kirilenko scored five of his 14 points in overtime while Rubio watched from the sideline because of a minutes restriction on his surgically repaired left knee.
“I didn’t feel nothing in the knee,” said Rubio. “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 have won their fourth straight game despite playing without All-Star Kevin Love because of an 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 points early in the game before Rubio entered the game for the first time since he tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in March.
“He brings us all energy, man. No words can really describe it,” said forward Derrick Williams. “You’ve just got to feel it out there on the court.”
Rubio fed Kirilenko for two free throws, then dived on the floor for a loose ball and later 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 Mavs off with a three-point play of his own.
“It’s amazing. They give me a great gift, that ‘W’ in overtime,” said Rubio. “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.
“He’s a terrific player and he played well,” said Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle. “You couldn’t tell he’s been out for a year. So give him credit.”