The Minnesota Timberwolves had exactly what they wanted — their best player with an open shot and the game on the line.
Kevin Love’s 3-point attempt with 1.9 seconds left bounced off the back rim, sending Minnesota to its first loss of the season in a 93-92 defeat to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday night.
"Heck yeah, we’ll take that shot every time," said guard Kevin Martin, who led the Timberwolves with 23 points. "The best power forward in the league with a great look to win the game."
Love’s 29.7 average going into the game led the league in scoring. Even though he struggled from the field, hitting 8 of 20 shots and scoring 17 points, he was confident his late shot would go down and his team would come all the way back from a 23-point deficit in the third quarter.
"More often than not, I believe I’m going to make that shot," Love said. "J.J. (Barea) made a good pass and I was in good rhythm, but I just hit the back rim."
Even the Cavaliers realized they were fortunate.
"Luckily, K-Love missed a shot and we got the stop," said Kyrie Irving, who had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists, but committed a career-high nine turnovers and missed two shots down the stretch that would have helped Cleveland extend its lead.
The Timberwolves got the lead into single digits several times in the fourth quarter, but still trailed 93-84 with 2:43 remaining. The Cavaliers didn’t score again and Minnesota had its opportunity after Irving missed with 15 seconds left.
"We finally decided to play some defense in the fourth quarter and gave ourselves a chance to win," said Love, who was named the Western Conference player of the week. "I just didn’t convert."
Minnesota, which won its first three games, was off to its best start since going 6-0 in 2001-02.
C.J. Miles led the Cavaliers with 19 points. Rookie forward Anthony Bennett, taken with the No. 1 pick in the draft, missed all three of his shots and is 0 for 15 from the field this season. His only points have come on two free throws in the season opener.
Cavaliers center Andrew Bynum played 18:40, his longest stint of the season, and scored 10 points with four rebounds. After playing 9:42 in the first half, he returned in the third quarter for the first time in the four games he’s played. Bynum, who missed all of last season with injuries to both knees, said before the game he’s not sure if he will regain the explosiveness he had earlier in his career.
Minnesota trailed 76-61 going into the fourth quarter and cut the margin to nine points early in the period. Two baskets by Miles and a jumper by Bynum pushed the margin to 84-69, but the Timberwolves weren’t finished, outscoring Cleveland 31-19 in the final period.
The Cavaliers avoided a third straight loss after a season-opening 98-94 home victory over Brooklyn.
"It was a great learning experience," said Cleveland coach Mike Brown. "Hopefully, we can build off that if we’re in that position again, especially in the near future."
NOTES: Love downplayed his individual award which was announced Monday. "I’ll take a 3-0 start over any individual honor, but it’s cool," he said. "It just shows that if you win, good things happen for everybody." … Cavaliers F Tristan Thompson had 12 points and 11 rebounds. He scored two points and had four rebounds in 35 minutes Saturday against Indiana. … The Cavaliers play at Milwaukee on Wednesday. … The Timberwolves host Golden State on Wednesday.