Another game, another huge day for Kevin Love as Wolves beat Nuggets
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MINNEAPOLIS - Kevin Love had a heck of an encore performance Sunday.
After scoring 51 points in Friday night's double-overtime loss at Oklahoma City, Love had 30 points and 21 rebounds in 44 minutes in the Minnesota Timberwolves' 117-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets at Target Center.
It was the Wolves' first game at home in more than two weeks.
A game like the one Love had Sunday would be considered a career-day for many NBA players, but it is simply becoming just another day at the office for Love.
The All-Star's big performance couldn't have come at a better time than in a game where the Wolves needed to respond after losing to the best team in the Western Conference on Friday.
"This was a game we needed to have," coach Rick Adelman said.
Said Love: "We responded. We came out and played well against Oklahoma City and we came out and played well tonight."
Sunday marked the ninth time this season Love topped the 30-point, 15-rebound mark. That is an NBA best. The only other player in the league to do it more than once is Josh Smith, who has done it twice.
"That doesn't surprise me anymore," Wayne Ellington said. "We come to expect that this season."
Anthony Tolliver agrees.
"That is normal," he said. "I didn't even know he had 30 and 20. Most people you know when they had 30 and 20 but it is just another night for him."
The win puts the Wolves within two games of .500 and -- at least temporarily -- 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the West. A victory over a team ahead of them in the standings gives the Wolves confidence heading into a two-game trip.
"If we want to stay in the hunt, we have to win these games," Adelman said. "We have to win 3-4 in a row, get up there within shouting distance when the schedule favors us more."
Adelman expressed concern before the game that he was worried about whether his team would have any energy left after losing in the second overtimes Friday. That loss not only sapped the Wolves' energy, but several players on the roster were left nursing some type of injury.
The Wolves were without Nikola Pekovic and J.J. Barea, but still managed to go on a 19-2 run and turn that into a 33-20 lead during a first quarter lasted nearly 45 minutes because of continued issues with the shot clock.
Barea, who has been slowed by injuries all season, was a late scratch because of a thigh bruise. That meant Luke Ridnour had added responsibility at point guard.
But there was no guarantee how much Ridnour was going to play because he was nursing a sore groin. Brad Miller joked after the game that Barea and Ridnour each grabbed the end of a wishbone to determine who would have to play.
Ridnour not only played through pain, he had one of his better games this season, continuing a stretch of solid play since Ricky Rubio was lost for the season. The veteran had a season-high 25 points on 9 of 14 shooting, added six assists and grabbed two boards in 36 minutes.
"That was the exact performance we needed out of Luke," Adelman said.
Ridnour is one of the more selfless players in the league and downplayed talk he played through pain, but it was clear he was hurting throughout the game. He used the 11 minutes he got on the bench to put heat on his injured groin and was seen riding the stationary bike at times to stay loose.
"At this point of the season everybody is banged up," Ridnour said, "so in order to make a push here we have to find ways to get it done."
The Wolves shot 52 percent in the first half and stormed out to a season-high 68 points in the first half. They led the stunned Nuggets by 25 points heading into the break. The blowout continued in the second half, with the Wolves opening up a 28-point lead midway through the third quarter -- their largest of the season.
But it wasn't just the Love and Ridnour show that won them the game. The Wolves got big contributions from Michael Beasley, Ellington and Tolliver off the bench as each scored in double-digits.
Ellington scored a season-high 17 points on 7-of-14 shooting in 28 minutes.
"That's what we are here for," Tolliver said when talking about the reserves. "It has been tough year for some of us that haven't played as much, but when you're number is called you have to step up and deliver."
"(Being ready) is just part of being a professional," Ellington said.
Beasley played after missing three of the past six games because of a toe injury that Adelman said bothered him throughout his 11-point, 22-minute performance.
"To his credit he wanted to give it a go," Adelman said.
The game became loser-proof for the Wolves once they opened up a 28-point lead in the third quarter, going ahead 81-53. The Nuggets went on brief runs, but the Wolves were able to stomp out any remaining confidence they might have had.
2: Denver starters that were drafted by the Wolves. Corey Brewer, who was taken No. 7 overall in 2007 and was traded last season before the deadline in the deal that brought Anthony Randolph to Minnesota. Ty Lawson was selected 18th overall in 2009 and shipped out on draft night.
257: Combined points for the Wolves over the past two games -- a franchise record.
30.9: Points per game in March for Love, the current best in the NBA.
No news is good news for the Wolves and injuries of late.
Pekovic said before the game that he will be out until Friday at the earliest while he deals with two sore ankles. Pekovic has bone spurs in his right right and his left ankle became sore because he said he has been overcompensating due to the pain on the other side.
Pekovic said surgery after the season will be necessary to clean things up in the right ankle, but team doctors told him a few days rest may help the pain subside so he can finish out the season.
"A lot of players have had that and some can play through it and some can't," Adelman said. "It just depends on the pain level and how much pain he is under. So we will just see if it calms down while staying off it for a while and if he can make it back at all."
Pekovic also said that this wasn't an injury that just popped up, and that doctors confirmed it is just built up from years of pounding up and down the court on his 290- pound frame.
He will not travel with the team on the upcoming road trip to Memphis and Charlotte so the quickest he could return would be Friday against the Boston Celtics, but even that may be a bit optimistic.
"We will try it in a few days," Pekovic said.
Barea was a late scratch for the game after he was ruled out midway through the first quarter with a thigh contusion.
Barea had 10-plus assists in his past three games and put together the first triple-double of his career Friday night. It appeared Barea had finally turned the corner after an injury-plagued start but he is now listed as day-to-day.
"We used to call him a poor man's Larry Bird. I think you can take the 'poor man's' off of that."
--Denver coach George Karl on Love.
The Wolves better have enjoyed what little time they got in their own beds because they are right back on the road just as quickly as they got back from the two week, seven-game trip.
Adelman joked that he didn't even bother unpacking some of his luggage as the team now gets Monday off before flying to Memphis on Tuesday.
The Wolves are 0-2 against the Grizzlies (25-21) this season and have lost six in a row overall.
The Wolves' last victory against Memphis came in a 109-102 home victory in February 2010.
From there, the Wolves fly right to Charlotte for the business end of a back-to-back road trip before returning home to face the Celtics on Friday.