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01/29/2014 11:31 PM EST
Love carries Wolves past Pelicans, 88-77
MINNESOTA 88, NEW ORLEANS 77

By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
AP Basketball Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Kevin Love had just finished carrying his
Minnesota Timberwolves over .500 for the first time since Nov.
23, playing the entire second half and over 43 minutes to make
it happen.

So naturally, he hit the weight room after the game. Without his
Bruise Brother Nikola Pekovic by his side for at least another
week, Love knows he's going to be tested like he rarely has
before.

Love had 30 points and 14 rebounds to help the Timberwolves
grind out an 88-77 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans on
Wednesday night.

"I was a little upset with myself with some of the shots I took
that I felt like I could've made," said Love was of 11 of 26 and
1 for 6 on 3-pointers. "The ball didn't feel great tonight.
That's the way it goes sometimes. If I can do that and we can
win without Pek, that's a good sign."

Kevin Martin added 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting and six boards
for the Timberwolves (23-22) in their first game without
Pekovic, who is expected to miss at least a week with bursitis
in his right ankle. They still managed to get over .500 after
failing in their previous 10 chances to do so.

Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans,
who were missing star forward Anthony Davis with a dislocated
left index finger. They shot 35 percent and managed a season-low
35 points in the first half to snap a three-game winning streak.

Davis was injured in the victory over the Cavaliers on Tuesday
night, but coach Monty Williams said he was playing it safe with
his franchise player and expected him to return on Saturday
against Chicago.

"He can knock down the mid-range shot down so a lot of their
bigs were in the paint just helping and we had to go up against
a big every time," said Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans, who had 11
points on 4-for-15 shooting. "So it was pretty tough."

In an ugly game for both teams, the Pelicans managed to hang
around and trailed by five heading into the fourth. But Love,
who played the entire second half, scored six straight points
during an 8-0 burst to open the quarter and help the Wolves win
for the fifth time in six games.

"With Pek out, we really have to find a way to relieve the
pressure off (Love), move him around and stuff," Wolves coach
Rick Adelman said. "We know teams are going to come at him. ...
So we have to find ways to figure it out."

Both teams looked lost without their lynch pins in the paint in
the first half. The Pelicans, who also are missing Jrue Holiday
and Ryan Anderson, hovered around 25 percent shooting for most
of the first quarter and were still at 30 percent late into the
third quarter against a Wolves defense that has been among the
worst in the league from a field goal percentage basis.

Without Pekovic commanding double teams and bulling his way to
the basket, the Wolves have had to focus more on the defensive
end.

That left Love to go to work on the offensive end, and he was
more aggressive looking for his shot than he has been with the
big fella next to him in the frontcourt. In his first game at
home since he was voted in as an All-Star starter for the
Western Conference, Love came out firing, taking nine shots and
attacking the glass. And when point guard Ricky Rubio went to
the bench early in the third quarter with four fouls, Love
started distributing more, picking up five assists to help the
Wolves push back against the plucky Pelicans.

"I know some of our guys are a bit overwhelmed with trying to
play at a high level, but we had our chances," New Orleans coach
Monty Williams said. "This is when you have to step up and we
just didn't do it tonight. That happens."

NOTES: Eric Gordon scored 14 on 5 for 17 shooting for New
Orleans. ... Before the game started, Love grabbed the mic and
thanked the Wolves fans for voting him as a starter in the
All-Star game. He posted his NBA-leading 27th game with at least
20 points and 10 rebounds. ... Greg Stiemsma started in place of
Davis and finished with three points and 12 rebounds and has
grabbed at least 10 boards in two straight games.

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