The Minnesota Timberwolves opened up a big early lead and held on for a 99-93 home victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder, ending their division rival's 12-game winning streak.
The Timberwolves staked themselves to a 30-18 lead after one quarter of play Thursday night and managed to hold on against last season's NBA finalists, who recovered to cut the lead to three early in the fourth quarter but ultimately ran out of time.
The T-Wolves' power duo of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic made major contributions by notching 24 points and 28 points, respectively, while guard Alexey Shved also had a big night with 12 points and 12 assists.
But diminutive reserve guard J.J. Barea was the decisive factor in a tight game, scoring 12 consecutive points for the Timberwolves in a critical juncture of the fourth quarter.
Despite the result, however, renewed concerns over the health of Ricky Rubio put a damper on the team's best victory of the season.
The flashy Spanish point guard, who underwent surgery on his left knee at the end of last season, showed signs he is still struggling with the injury after a drive to the hoop in the second quarter ended in an awkward fall.
In visible pain afterward and unable to run without limping, Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman immediately removed him from the game.
Although Rubio returned in the second half, his play was far from the level he showed in his first game back from the injury on Sunday.
For the night, Rubio played just over 18 minutes and missed all three shots from the field. He dished out three assists and grabbed three rebounds.
The Thunder, who despite the loss still hold the best record in the NBA at 21-5, struggled at the Target Center in Minneapolis largely because of poor shooting by point guard Russell Westbrook, who scored 30 points but was just 9-of-28 from the field and 1-of-6 from 3-point range.
Star forward Kevin Durant was his normally efficient self, scoring 33 points on 12-21 shooting from the field and making all eight of his free throws.
Spanish power forward Serge Ibaka was once again the third option for the Thunder, scoring 14 points on 6-of-13 shooting, and also blocked five shots.
But Oklahoma City felt the absence of injured sharp-shooting reserve guard Kevin Martin on a night when the team barely shot over 40 percent from the field.
In other action Thursday night in the NBA, the Miami Heat trounced the Dallas Mavericks 110-95 behind 24 points from reigning league MVP LeBron James and the Portland Trail Blazers topped the Denver Nuggets 101-93 to stretch their winning streak to four games.