Wolves’ Brewer ‘never expected’ to score 51 points
MINNEAPOLIS — Corey Brewer welcomes you to Basketball Bizarro World.
Here, game-winning shots by rookies, double-doubles by embattled men awaiting criminal trial and near triple-doubles by All-Stars play second fiddle.
Here, throwaway games near the end of the season bring 16,689 screaming fans to their feet. Here, the NBA hands down a mandatory drug test following a historical performance just to ensure its legitimacy.
OK, so the hour-plus delay between Brewer’s franchise-best 51-point performance and his Target Center departure came via a random urine sampling. Adam Silver didn’t call down to Minneapolis and have someone make sure Brewer hadn’t juiced up with a performance enhancer.
But he might as well have, because this was madness.
Just ask the man that created it.
"I felt like I was in high school again," Brewer said after apologizing for taking so long to complete his drug test. "Everything was going in, but I was just playing. I wasn’t thinking about it."
Then, halfway through a long-awaited postgame media scrum: "I was messing around, to be honest. 51, though? That was like — I’ll take it."
And to close before heading out to celebrate an unforgettable night near the conclusion of a forgettable season: "I’m not even gonna lie — 50? You know how many guys score 50 in the NBA? That’s what makes it such a good night, because I never expected in my career to score 50."
Winding his way through Houston defenders, flying in for patented fast-break dunks and connecting from all over the floor, Brewer joined a single-game achievement list that includes Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Rick Barry — and only Michael Jordan, Allen Iverson and Rick Barry. Before Friday night, those three were the only NBA players to score 50 or more points and record six or more steals in the same outing.
By the time rookie center Gorgui Dieng recovered a lob from Ricky Rubio and knocked down a straight-on jumper from 6 feet out to finalize the score at 112-110 with 4.6 seconds left, fans were already in a frenzy. Brewer’s teammates — five of whom didn’t dress, including Kevin Love — jumped out of their chairs every time the lanky small forward touched the ball down the stretch.
After the Rockets coughed it up on their final trip down the floor and the final horn sounded, it took folks a while to realize Dieng had recorded 20 rebounds, Dante Cunningham — charged with felony domestic assault earlier this week and also arrested for sending threatening texts to the woman he allegedly tried to strangle — had recorded his first 20-point, 10-rebound game, and James Harden had come within two rebounds of a triple-double.
Nor, for a moment, did anyone dressed in black and blue remember this once-promising season’s only overall accomplishment is hitting the 40-win plateau for the first time in since 2004-05 — also achieved Friday night.
"Unbelievable," said coach Rick Adelman, whose squad improved to 40-39 but will miss the postseason for a 10th straight year.
All from a 28-year-old man once spurned by this franchise that averages a mere 10 points per game for his career, the fifth-lowest mark for any player that’s scored 50 or more points in a game. He’s only the sixth player with a previous career high of less than 30 to do so.
Before this outlandish evening, Brewer hadn’t notched more than 27 points in a single contest. He had 26 at halftime Friday — three on a last-second, half-court buzzer-beater that banked home.
"It’s way up there," Adelman said when asked about where Brewer’s night ranked among individual performances the coach has overseen in his 23-year tenure. "I don’t think they knew what to do with him. I, we didn’t know what to do with him.
"It was his night."
After Brewer’s running jump shot gave the Timberwolves a 90-87 lead with 8:47 to go, injured shooting guard Kevin Martin alerted him he had 44 points.
"Do you want to come join the club?" asked Martin, who along with Love has a 50-point game to his credit.
"I was like ‘Ah, we’ll see,’" Brewer said.
A jam at the 3:05 mark gave him 49. A pair of free throws a little more than a minute later rendered him the only player besides Love in Minnesota’s 25-year history to score 51.
And Love needed two overtimes March 23, 2012 at Oklahoma City.
"I told him I was just glad he didn’t get more than 51," Love cracked to reporters after sitting out with a hyper-extended elbow.
Brewer didn’t even have the usual floor-length Love outlets that have made him a lethal transition threat at his disposal. Instead, Rubio (16 points, 10 assists) played the primary feeder role, a task the assists machine is more than accustomed to.
With Love, Martin (sore right heel) and Nikola Pekovic (sore right ankle) out and Chase Budinger and Shabazz Muhammad shut down for the season, it was up to Brewer and a starting lineup that included Dieng, Cunningham and Robbie Hummel to piece together a feel-good win against another playoff run contender — see victories over Miami and San Antonio in the past week as other examples.
Western Conference fourth seed Houston (52-27) was without point guard Patrick Beverley and Dwight Howard for an eighth straight contest, too, so Brewer figured he might have a big night.
But not this.
This was the kind of outing Brewer imagined as a youngster, playing on the makeshift court at his family’s farm near Portland, Tenn. After the Timberwolves drafted him seventh overall in 2007 out of Florida, only to watch him struggle to adjust and eventually trade him to New York, he’d never thought it anywhere near possible.
A championship in Dallas and two pivotal years of development as Denver’s sixth man later, though, the guy that never stops smiling agreed this was an exclamation point on his return to First Avenue North.
"The first time I was here, I was bad," said Brewer, who signed a three-year, $15 million free-agent deal last summer. "I ain’t gonna lie. I was really bad. Let’s be honest. I left, and I got into a good situation."
In perfect summation of a wild night, Rubio said he planned to watch a replay of the game to make sure it really happened. "There are no words," the soft-spoken Spaniard said when asked to characterize it.
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