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Wed, 19 Dec 2012 01:30 AM EST

The white sleeve on Ricky Rubio’s left knee served as a reminder of what he went thru to get back on the court.

Although it served to protect his surgically repaired joint, it obviously does nothing to constrict the creativeness and uncontrollable joy that made him one of the most exciting players in the league before he went down last season.

Nine long months later on it’s as if Rubio never left.

Zipping passes between his legs to his Timberwolves squad in a dazzling season debut, Rubio had 9 assists and 8 points in 18 minutes of Minnesota’s 114-106 overtime victory over the Mavericks.

Andrei Kirilenko scored 5 of his 14 points in overtime while Rubio studied from the bench as a result of a minutes restriction.

”I did not feel nothing in the knee,” Rubio said. ”I feel great. … I feel 100%. I’ve got some issues in other parts now but it’s just like a normal thing.”

Nikola Pekovic scored 21 points for the Timberwolves, who won their 4th straight game regardless of playing without All-Star Kevin Love because of an illness.

O.J. Mayo had 20 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds and Shawn Marion had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the Mavericks, who led by 13 early before Rubio came off the bench for the 1st time since he tore the ACL and LCL in his left knee in March.

”He brings us all energy, man. No words can actually describe it,” forward Derrick Williams said. ”You’ve just got to feel it out there on the court.”

Alexey Shved had 18 points and 6 assists and the Wolves scored the 1st 10 points in overtime to send an amped crowd home happy.

Derek Fisher scored 20 points for the Mavericks, who turned the ball over 20 times. They led 98-96 after Fisher’s 4-point play with 250 to go.

Rubio fed Kirilenko for 2 free throws, then dived on the floor for a loose ball and later knocked down two free throws to tie the game at 100.

But he missed an open 3-pointer with a couple of seconds remaining that would have won the game in regulation.

No matter. Kirilenko hit 2 free throws, scored a 3-point play and Pekovic finished the Mavs with a 3-point play of his own.

”It’s amazing. They give me a great gift, that ‘W’ in overtime,” Rubio declared. ”I think we’re going to do big things with this team this year. Just showing how we played in the overtime … It was amazing.”

Could it have gone any better?

”Yeah,” he claimed. ”If I make that shot.”

More than 18,000 packed into Target Center in expectation of Rubio’s return and exploded at the bare sight of his face on the video board during pregame celebrations. He received a warm ovation when he got off the bench to enter the game for the 1st time with 1:47 to go in the 1st quarter. Football scores

The Dallas Mavericks can only hope that the return of their star has a similar effect. Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t played this season after undergoing surgery on his right knee. There’s still no schedule for his return.

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