MINNEAPOLIS -- Kurt Rambis knows his first year coaching the young and rebuilding Minnesota Timberwolves is going to be a long one.
He said before his first game that, above all else, he wants to see his players show their fans that they won't quit and will play hard until the final buzzer.
Rookie Jonny Flynn clearly has been listening.
Flynn scored 13 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter to help the Wolves erase a 19-point deficit and Damien Wilkins' putback at the buzzer lifted Minnesota to a 95-93 victory over the New Jersey Nets on Wednesday night.
"I liked the way our guys finished the ball game with aggressiveness," Rambis said. "They didn't quit. They felt like they had an opportunity to win the ball game even when they were down 15. I admire that in the guys. So I was very proud of them that they fought back to win the ball game."
Minnesota trailed by 16 points with less than seven minutes to play. But Flynn scored 11 points the rest of the way and the Timberwolves closed the game on a 24-6 run to steal the victory.
"He just kept attacking and the referees just had to call fouls," said center Al Jefferson, who was held to nine points and four rebounds. "I tip my hat off to him. He's the reason we won the game."
New Jersey scored just one field goal in that span, committed five turnovers and allowed seven offensive rebounds to the charging Wolves.
Brook Lopez had 27 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks for the Nets. But he didn't score in the final period and Jefferson blocked a shot with 25 seconds to go that would have given New Jersey the lead.
"We just got kind of careless with the ball," Lopez said. "I definitely did. I turned the ball over three or four times. The last little span ended up costing us the game, obviously."
Many questioned why the Timberwolves chose Flynn, a point guard out of Syracuse, with the sixth overall pick immediately after taking Spanish point guard Ricky Rubio at No. 5.
Now they know.
With Rubio playing over in Spain, Flynn was relentless in taking the ball to the basket in the final period. He either scored on his drives to the hoop or wound up at the foul line, where he made 8 of 10 free throws in the game.
"Can't be scared of anything," said Flynn, who is generously listed at 6-foot. "Especially a little guy like me. All we have is a big heart."
Devin Harris had a rough shooting night for the Nets. He managed just 14 points on 4 for 13 shooting to go with eight assists and six rebounds.
The Nets led by 19 points midway through the third quarter, with the 7-foot Lopez bullying the smaller Timberwolves on the low block.
But Minnesota ripped off a 10-0 run in the fourth quarter to pull within four at 87-83 with four minutes to go.
"It just clicked in," Rambis said. "The light started turning on for everybody."
Like the Timberwolves, the Nets are rebuilding with an eye toward the summer of 2010. Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has agreed to buy 80 percent of the team, and the Nets could be a major player in what is expected to be a banner free agent season.
Until then, coach Lawrence Frank is working with a young team that does have some nice pieces in Harris, Lopez and Williams. The coach said he saw his team lose its poise when things got tight, which is typical of excitable youngsters.
"These are hard lessons, but the lesson is try to maintain your poise," Frank said. "Teams are going to make runs, and it's how you respond to them, and we obviously didn't respond well tonight."
|Damien Wilkins' putback at the buzzer completes the T-Wolves' 19-point comeback. (Getty Images)|
|New Jersey (0-1)||25||30||23||15||93|
|Minnesota (1-0) «||21||22||21||31||95|
|NJ:B. Lopez 27 Pts
NJ:B. Lopez 15 Reb
NJ:D. Harris 8 Ast
|MIN:J. Flynn 18 Pts
MIN:D. Wilkins 10 Reb
MIN:J. Flynn 2 Ast
|Players of the Game|
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|C. Lee, SG||38||2-11||1-1||3||2||2||5|
|B. Lopez, C||38||11-19||5-7||15||4||4||27|
|Y. Jianlian, SF||37||5-10||7-8||12||1||2||17|
|D. Harris, SG||29||4-13||6-6||6||8||5||14|
|C. Douglas-Roberts, SG||24||4-6||0-0||1||0||4||8|
|T. Williams, G||31||6-14||3-3||10||1||2||15|
|R. Alston, PG||23||0-2||0-0||0||3||0||0|
|J. Boone, PF||10||1-2||1-2||4||1||3||3|
|B. Simmons, SF||8||1-4||2-2||1||0||1||4|
|J. Hayes, SF||2||0-0||0-0||0||0||1||0|
|T. Battie, PF||Did Not Play|
|E. Najera, PF||Did Not Play|
|K. Dooling, PG||Did Not Play|
|S. Williams, PF||Did Not Play|
|T. Hassell, SF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|
|C. Brewer, SF||33||3-14||1-2||8||1||3||7|
|J. Flynn, PG||29||5-13||8-10||4||2||2||18|
|D. Wilkins, SG||26||4-10||4-5||10||2||2||12|
|A. Jefferson, PF||25||2-9||5-8||4||2||3||9|
|R. Gomes, PF||19||3-11||4-4||4||1||4||10|
|W. Ellington, G||23||4-8||0-0||6||2||0||8|
|R. Hollins, C||22||4-5||1-2||3||1||4||9|
|B. Cardinal, PF||20||3-4||0-0||4||1||3||7|
|R. Sessions, PG||19||2-4||1-2||4||1||0||5|
|S. Pavlovic, SG||18||3-11||2-2||2||1||2||8|
|O. Pecherov, C||5||1-4||0-0||1||0||0||2|
|M. Blount, C||Did Not Play|
|K. Love, PF||Did Not Play|
|J. Hart, PG||Did Not Play|
|N. Jawai, PF||Did Not Play|
|Complete Box Score|