MINNEAPOLIS — More than 15,000 fans headed to Target Center on Saturday night, eager to see a debut that has been two years in the making.
Ricky Rubio made sure they didn't go home disappointed.
The Spanish import's slick passing wowed the home crowd and Kevin Love had 21 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 117-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in their preseason opener Saturday night.
"They love him," Wolves forward Michael Beasley said. "He made the simple bounce passes, and they were in awe."
Rubio had six points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals in 23 minutes, eliciting chants of "Ole! Ole! Ole! Ole!" in the fourth quarter in homage to his European roots. Beasley scored 21 points and No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams had 14 points for Minnesota in coach Rick Adelman's debut.
"I was a little nervous because it was my first game out there, but with these teammates it's so easy you know because we practice so hard and we know what we have to do, and we did well," Rubio said.
Mike Dunleavy had 16 points and five assists and rookie Jon Leuer had 18 points and five rebounds for the Bucks. Andrew Bogut had nine points and six boards.
The Timberwolves made 15 of 24 3-pointers and looked pretty sharp offensively given that they've only been practicing Adelman's new motion offense for about a week due to the NBA's lockout.
"We weren't very good," Bucks coach Scott Skiles said. "They were way better than us in almost everything. They kind of reacted quicker. We had some decent moments early on, but we just had trouble sustaining anything. We were just kind of a step slow, and they made us pay for it."
Love, who made the All-Star team last season despite the Wolves having the second-worst record in the NBA, was 4 for 7 from long range and Williams was 3 for 4.
Adelman wanted Rubio to ease into his NBA debut in an effort to keep him comfortable and to manage the high expectations, but it was clear from the start that he was the headliner.
The attendance was the most for a Wolves home preseason game since 2004-05, the year after Kevin Garnett and Co. made the Western Conference finals. They came to see Rubio, the fifth overall pick in 2009 who stayed in Spain for the past two seasons.
Adelman started the veteran Luke Ridnour at point guard, and it wasn't until the 4:22 mark of the first quarter that Rubio checked in.
As soon as he got up from the bench to trot to the scorer's table, the crowd gave a loud cheer. He received a standing ovation when he entered the game and was cheered every time he so much as touched the ball in the early going.
Adelman paired him with veteran J.J. Barea for most of the night to help him on the court, and Rubio responded with just one turnover.
The biggest highlight of the night came on a fast break in the fourth quarter, when Rubio zipped a bounce pass through Leuer's legs to Barea for an easy layup, prompting chants of "Ru-bi-o! Ru-bi-o!" from an adoring crowd.
Moments later, his alley-oop to Williams sent a charge through the crowd again.Comment on this story
"It's amazing," Rubio said. "All I want to say is thank you everybody, thank you for being here, thank you for support the team, and thank you to be here."
Bucks fans were almost as eager to see Bogut back in the starting lineup and hope to have him for a full season for the first time since he was a rookie in 2005-06. Bogut had arthroscopic surgery on his bothersome right elbow in the offseason after playing in 65 games last year, and he remains the key for their hopes in a tougher Eastern Conference.
"I feel OK," Bogut said. "Wind felt pretty good. Just getting into that game rhythm now is going to be the biggest challenge."