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NBA standings 2012: Timberwolves remain in second place in the Northwest after win over New Orleans

Minnesota managed to stay above .500 with the return of Ricky Rubio expected Saturday when they host the Dallas Mavericks.

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

The Minnesota Timberwolves picked up a big road win in what could have been the last game before the return of Ricky Rubio, knocking off New Orleans 113-102 Friday.

Minnesota improved to 11-9 on the season. It was the Wolves' third win in a row, staying 6.5 games behind Oklahoma City in the Northwest. The Wolves will host Dallas Saturday, and Rubio's return is expected in that game.

The Thunder (19-4) defeated Sacramento 113-103 Friday, their 10th consecutive victory. They'll host San Antonio Dec. 17.

Utah saw its four-game winning streak snapped Friday after a 99-84 loss at Phoenix. The Jazz remain tied with Minnesota for second place in the division. Utah will host Memphis Saturday.

Denver (12-12) remains one game behind Minnesota and Utah, defeating Memphis at home 99-94 Friday. The Nuggets are 7.5 games behind Oklahoma City. The Nuggets are at Sacramento Dec. 16.

Portland's 98-90 win over San Antonio Dec. 13 moved the Blazers to 10-12 on the season, bringing up the rear in the Northwest division. They'll host New Orleans Dec. 16.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.