MINNEAPOLIS — This is the reason it’s worth watching a game that wouldn’t otherwise matter.
Friday at Target Center, with Kevin Love’s hyperextended right elbow adding to an already lengthy injury list, with the Wolves down three starters and out of the playoffs, Corey Brewer happened.
In a thrilling game marred only by some whistle-happy officials, Brewer scored 51 points, setting a franchise record for points in regulation.
The Portland, Tenn., native scored 16 in the first quarter, 10 in both the second and third and 15 in the fourth. He hit 19 of 30 shots and 11 of 15 free throws in the Wolves’ 112-110 victory over Houston.
Even so, it wasn’t a one-man effort.
Dante Cunningham had 20 points and 13 rebounds, the first 20-10 game of his career. Ricky Rubio had 14 points and 10 assists. Gorgui Dieng had 12 points and 20 rebounds, his final two points coming on a game-winning 6-foot jump shot with 4.6 seconds left.
And the Wolves (40-39) needed all of it.
Because the Rockets (52-27), minus starters Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley, wouldn’t go away. James Harden had 33 points, Chandler Parsons had 27 and Jeremy Lin had 14.
It was a tense final few minutes. The Wolves were down one early in the fourth quarter when Brewer was fouled and hit two free throws. Then he scored on wild drives on consecutive possessions to give the Wolves a 90-87 lead. Moments later, on the break, Brewer was fouled and made a free throw with 6:24 left for a 94-89 lead.
The Wolves’ lead was one point when Brewer made two free throws with 3:21 left. Then, after Lin missed, Dieng fed Brewer on the break for a 103-98 lead.
Then Lin hit a three-pointer, Parsons turned a steal into a fast break basket and a tie game.
Fouled with 1:43 left, Brewer scored his 50th and 51st points to a standing ovation. Lin missed, Brewer turned the ball over, but Rubio took a charge from Parsons with 1:00 left, giving the Wolves, up two, the ball.
With the shot clock winding down Brewer fed Gorgui Dieng for a jumper with 37.9 second left.
Rubio hit one of two free throws with 23 seconds left, followed by a Parsons dunk. Rubio hit two free throws with 19.9 left for a three-point lead.
But Harden answered with a three-pointer with 17.3 seconds left, before Dieng sealed it.