Kevin Love pours in team-high 30 as Wolves edge Suns in shootout
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Kevin Love scored a team-high 30 points, grabbed seven rebounds and appeared to be playing with less pain from his sore back as the Minnesota Timberwolves kicked off a seven-game road trip in style with Monday's 127-124 shootout win against the Phoenix Suns.
Love, who missed Friday's game against the Los Angeles Lakers and remained hampered on Saturday against New Orleans, was 11-of-23 from the field and 5-of-9 from 3-point range.
Nikola Pekovic added 24 points and Luke Ridnour made two free throws with 17 seconds remaining to give the Wolves a 125-122 lead in a game that won't be used by high school coaches to teach their young players defense.
Jared Dudley missed a wide open 3 on the next possession, but Martell Webster was blown for a loose ball foul on Marcin Gorat, who missed both free throws. Wesley Johnson got the rebound, got fouled and knocked down two free throws to ice the game and the win.
The win was the first for the Wolves since Ricky Rubio tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee against the Lakers and was a nice way to respond from a truly pitiful performance against the Hornets that coach Rick Adelman called the worst defensive effort of the season.
It wasn't much of a step in the right direction on defense, but the effort was improved and all the wins count the same -- especially for a team reeling over the loss of Rubio.
This was the last game for the Wolves before Thursday's trade deadline, so it proved to be an audition of sorts for a few players the Wolves may be looking to ship out.
Adelman went with the same starting lineup from Saturday -- Ridnour, Webster, Johnson, Love and Pekovic -- but it was the bench that built a 63-56 lead in the first half.
One player who passed his audition with flying colors was Michael Beasley, who has been surrounded by trade rumors but appeared engaged and energetic on Monday.
Beasley scored 15 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 3-of-3 from behind the arc in the first half before sitting out the second half because of a sore toe.
Adding 15 points of the bench was Wayne Ellington, who shot 6-of-9 from the field and continued to make a case that he should be on the court more. Adelman always says he will go with the players that give them the best chance to win, and on Monday, Ellington played more minutes (34) than Johnson (23), Webster (20) and Ridnour (34).
One player who didn't do anything to boost his already miniscule trade value was Anthony Randolph, who earned a rare activation simply so the Wolves could try to showcase the former No. 14 overall pick.
Randolph played 5 minutes, was 0-for-3 shooting and got a quick hook from Adelman. The Wolves acquired Randolph last year after president of basketball operations David Kahn fell in love with his "length and athleticism," but he's been a disappointment.
The Wolves' first lead of the night came with seven minutes remaining in the first half when Beasley connected on a 3.
This was one of those games where whoever got the ball last was likely going to win. The Wolves knocked down their shots in the final two minutes and the Suns didn't. Simple as that.
34: Points for the Wolves in the second quarter, breaking their previous season high of 33.
127: Points for the Wolves, a season-high and the eighth-highest scoring output in team history.
7: Rebounds for Love, a season low.
J.J. Barea returned from a two-game absence from his latest injury -- a sprained ankle in Wednesday's win over Portland.
He entered the game with 41 seconds remaining in the first quarter and played 15 minutes in relief of Ridnour, scoring three points and adding eight assists, second only to Ridnour's nine.
Barea was sporting a different style of shoe. Kahn believed it was Barea's shoes that were causing him to get injured so frequently.
The Wolves get two days off before meeting up with the Utah Jazz on Thursday.
The teams have split a pair of games so far this season, making Thursday's game the rubber match. Former Wolf Al Jefferson and the Jazz got the best of the Wolves 108-98 in January, but the Wolves won the rematch in February by the same score.
From there, the Wolves head to California for a three-pack of games -- Friday against the Lakers, Sunday against Sacramento and Monday against Golden State.