DALLAS (AP) — With a growing injury list and a patchwork lineup, the Minnesota Timberwolves relied on rugged defense to extend their early-season success.
Nikola Pekovic scored 20 points before leaving with an injury and the short-handed Timberwolves beat the Dallas Mavericks 90-82 on Monday night.
The Timberwolves dressed only 10 players. The 6-foot-11 Pekovic, the team's leading scorer, became the latest Minnesota player to get hurt when he exited late in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle and didn't return.
Even with the rash of injuries and the lineup in a state of flux, the one constant all season has been Minnesota's defense — which entered fifth in the NBA in points allowed.
The Mavericks shot a season-low 36.3 percent and never led after the opening 3 minutes.
"I credit our character," Minnesota forward Andrei Kirilenko said. "Nobody really looks down and nobody feels sorry. Everybody just keeps coming out and trying to give their best. I think as a team, we played good team defense."
Minnesota stars Kevin Love (broken right hand) and Ricky Rubio (torn left ACL) have yet to play this season.
On Sunday, the Timberwolves announced Chase Budinger will have surgery for a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee, an injury he sustained while filling in for Brandon Roy on Saturday night. Roy missed his second game Monday with a sore right knee.
Former Mavericks guard J.J. Barea (left foot sprain) did not travel with Minnesota and missed his third straight game.
Pekovic then turned his ankle when he stepped on the foot of Dallas guard Vince Carter running down the court with 2:46 left in the third.
Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said he didn't think Pekovic's injury was serious.
"I don't know when it's going to stop," Adelman said. "Hopefully we can get some guys back and maintain the same energy level we've had."
Minnesota's energy was evident from the start as it held Dallas to 17 points in the first quarter. The Mavericks missed 13 of their final 15 shots in the first quarter and then misfired on their first four attempts in the second.
Dallas coach Rick Carlisle was ejected after arguing a foul call with 5 minutes left. Assistant coach Jim O'Brien coached the team the rest of the way.