Love powers Timberwolves past Pelicans
The Sports Xchange
Minnesota 88 New Orleans 77
MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love caught the Target Center in-game hosts off guard when he grabbed one of their microphones right before tip-off against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday.
He thanked the fans in his impromptu speech for becoming the team's All-Star starter since 2007, then he spent the next three hours proving why he was worthy of the honor. Love notched his league-high 27th game recording at least 20-points and 10-rebounds, leading the Timberwolves to an 88-77 win over New Orleans.
The Wolves' 88 points was a season-low in a victory, while the Pelicans set a season-low in points scored.
Love finished with 30 points and 14 rebounds in a season-high 43 minutes and guided the Wolves over .500 for the first time since Nov. 24, 15 games into the season. They were 0-10 in their last 10 opportunities to crack above .500 since their 8-7 start.
"The second half of the season will get better," Love said. "Talk is cheap so if you go out there and prove it every single night, we have another home game here Friday; tough back-to-back but we just have to keep taking it day-by-day. If we can do that, we are going to continue to get better."
Up 67-62 to start the fourth, Love made the first six points in the quarter to spark an 8-0 run. It gave Minnesota a 13-point lead, the largest of the game, and was enough to hold off the Pelicans, who remained in the contest despite shooting 35.4 percent from the floor.
Wolves coach Rick Adelman said the lack of energy was the reason why the Pelicans hung around despite the absence of Anthony Davis, who leads the team in points, rebounds and blocks. The Pelicans never led in the contest and shot just 2 of 21 on three pointers.
"I thought we just settled a lot for lazy jump shots tonight," Pelicans coach Monty Williams said. "That kind of stuff happens, but you certainly don't expect it to happen with the win we had last night. They packed the paint."
Forward Al-Farouq Aminu led New Orleans with 18 points and was the only player to shoot above 50 percent on 8 of 13. He also had 12 rebounds but the rest of the team fizzed on the second game of a back-to-back. Guards Eric Gordon, Tyreke Evans and Austin Rivers scored a combined 33 points on 12 of 41 shooting.
"It was tough, as far as guards, it was tough for us to really score in the paint and to really get a rhythm," Gordon said.
The Wolves kept the lead throughout the game due to an efficient 22 points off the bench from J.J. Barea and Dante Cunningham shooting 10 of 16 from the floor. Cunningham scored in double figures for just the seventh time this season, and it occurred with center Nikola Pekovic out indefinitely.
"We need him; we need the energy, and we need the energy he brings every night," Adelman said.
The Wolves also finished the first half on an 8-0 run in the final 83 seconds to lead 47-35 at halftime. Love had 18 points and 10 rebounds before the break, shooting 6 of 14 from the floor. Love and guard Kevin Martin, who had 13 points at halftime, combined for 31 of the team's 47 first half points. The rest of the team shot 5-for-19.
Martin finished with 18 points, his sixth time scoring at least 18 points over his last seven games.
NOTES: Pelicans F Anthony Davis did not play due to a left index finger he dislocated Tuesday in a 100-89 victory over the Cavs. Davis had 30 points, seven rebounds and eight blocks before the injury. Alexis Anjinca replaced Davis in the starting lineup. Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Davis is expected to return against the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. ... Wolves C Nikola Pekovic will be out indefinitely due to bursitis in his right ankle suffered Monday in a 95-86 win over the Bulls. Ronny Turiaf started in Pekovic's absence. ... Adelman said he's not concerned about restricting F Chase Budinger's minutes anymore in his return from a knee injury. He's more concerned with how Budinger runs the floor now. "I think that's something he's going to have to face all year," Adelman said. "He's still laterally not quite sure, but he did make some moves going to the basket the other night (against the Bulls)." Budinger had 12 points in 20 minutes against the Bulls on Monday.