The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the New Orleans Pelicans 88-77 Wednesday night. But it wasn’t just a win for the Wolves; this was the first time since November 23rd that the team is over .500.
But the award for the evening definitely goes to Kevin Love, of course. He played the entire second half and over 43 minutes to make this win happen. Love had 30 points and 14 rebounds for the 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, he 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.”
But it wasn’t just Love who was a work horse. Kevin Martin added 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting and six rebounds 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.
The Pelicans Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and 12 rebounds; they were also missing a key piece to their puzzle since Anthony Davis has a dislocated left index finger. They shot 35 percent and scored 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 midrange 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.”
While this was a win for the Wolves, this was an ugly game for both teams. The Pelicans managed to hang around and pulled in by five heading into the fourth. But Love scored six straight points during an 8-0 burst to open the quarter and helped 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.”
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.”