Minnesota Timberwolves rookie Kevin Love is going to hurt himself if he celebrates every victory the way he did Friday night's 105-103 stunner at Phoenix.
The Wolves won for the sixth time in seven games and the eighth time in the past 11. Perhaps more important, they beat a winning team for only the second time this season, on the road against a bleary Suns team that had been perfect the last six times after it lost a game.
When it was all over and the Wolves prevailed with a 32-24 fourth quarter, Love expressed his joy by meeting teammate Craig Smith — the guy they call Rhino for a reason — in midair with a full-body bump at midcourt.
"I'll take the hurt if we can get the win," Love said in a noisy Wolves locker room afterward.
The Wolves led by nine points early, trailed by 11 in the third quarter and were behind by six entering a fourth quarter in which Randy Foye once again provided the theatrics — not with 10 or more points in the final quarter as he had done in the team's past four games, but with an off-balanced dagger of a jumper that put the Wolves ahead to stay 102-101 with two minutes left to play.
The victory not only potentially began another winning streak, it stopped the Wolves' losing ways at one game, after Tuesday's loss to Miami ended a five-game win streak.
"That was my main concern," Foye said. "With all the hype after we won five, then we lose one and people probably are like, 'Well, let's see what they can do now.' We not only beat a great team, we beat them on the road."
The Suns arrived home after 3 a.m. Friday after they had lost an 8:30 game in Denver on Thursday night.
This time, the Suns played Shaquille O'Neal after giving him the night off against the Nuggets and O'Neal responded with a 22-point, 11-rebound game in which he made more free throws than he missed (4-for-7).
O'Neal still wasn't enough to overcome an undersized Wolves team that started 6-6 Smith at power forward and 6-9 Al Jefferson at center and still matched the Suns' frontcourt tandem of O'Neal and Amare Stoudemire almost punch for punch, point for point. Jefferson and O'Neal scored 22 points each, while Stoudemire outdueled Smith by a single point, 19-18.
"The table was set for us," Wolves coach Kevin McHale said. "They got in late last night, but Shaq is the great neutralizer. I kept thinking he wouldn't keep making free throws."
The differences instead were the Wolves' 19-9 advantage in offensive rebounds that included seven by Love (13 points, 14 rebounds), and their fourth-quarter nerve that again offered Foye's timely play as well as Love's gritty defense on O'Neal and ability to get his hands on so many balls and Rodney Carney's speeding layup that put the Wolves ahead 105-101 with 1:11 left.
Jason Richardson's desperation three-pointer from the corner that would have won the game missed at the final buzzer.
"Randy's really putting it on his shoulders and getting it done," McHale said of Foye's go-ahead shot and five fourth-quarter points. "That one shot, that was an absolute raindrop, nothing but bottom. We needed it, too."