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Updated: April 11th, 2012 10:57pm
Kevin Love spends night in hospital after elbow to head in Denver

Kevin Love spends night in hospital after elbow to head in Denver

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MINNEAPOLIS -- The Minnesota Timberwolves' season was sputtering out of control before they went to Denver.

Then Kevin Love left early in Wednesday's 113-107 loss to the Nuggets with a head injury.

Love took an inadvertent elbow in the head from JaVale McGee with 3 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first quarter. McGee drove into the paint and caught Love in the temple, sending the All-Star crumbling to the court.

The injury was diagnosed as a mild concussion and a neck strain, and Love stayed at a Denver hospital overnight for precautionary reasons, the Wolves said.

The NBA has a standard baseline test a player must pass to be cleared to play following a concussion. That, plus Love's overnight stay in Denver, all but guarantees the All-Star will miss Thursday's game at Target Center against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Love was down underneath the hoop barely moving before being attended to by a group of trainers with his teammates huddling around him. Love was eventually helped up after an extended break in the game, was given assistance off the court and did not return.

The Nuggets took advantage by taking a 24-point lead in the second half. But the Wolves eventually got their head back in the game and rallied against a Nuggets team that began sleepwalking, tying the game twice in the fourth quarter before the comeback fell short.

Heading into the game, it looked like the bad news for the Wolves would be the inevitable mathematical elimination from the playoffs -- not yet another injury to a starter -- but they managed to hold that off for at least 24 hours after the Phoenix Suns lost to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Wolves would officially be eliminated from the playoffs if their seven-game losing streak reaches eight games on Thursday night against the Clippers.

The skinny

The rest of the game appeared to be nothing more than a formality. The Wolves looked shell-shocked for over two quarters after losing Love midway through the first.

The already shorthanded Wolves -- Luke Ridnour and Darko Milicic did not make the trip -- were also without Wayne Ellington who bowed out before the game with back spasms.

The offense has been a shell of its former self without Ricky Rubio and Ridnour and things completely came off the hinges once the Wolves lost their leading scorer in Love.

The Nuggets took advantage by going on a 14-4 run to end the quarter once Love went down and didn't let up in the second quarter. J.J. Barea doing his best to run some semblance of an offense, but they were no match defensively for the Nuggets, who shot 59% in the first half and ended on a 27-14 run to take a 68-47 lead.

But after the shock of losing Love wore off, the Wolves pulled within 89-80 entering the fourth quarter when Derrick Williams hit a 3-pointer to end the third, capping off 12 straight points for the rookie who flourished at the power forward spot in Love's absence.

Williams had 27 points and Anthony Randolph added 28 points off the bench. Anthony Tolliver's 3-pointer tied the game at 97 with 4:58 left after the Wolves had been all but out of it.

The Wolves had the ball trailing 109-107 with a chance to lead or tie but Barea's shot from 12-feet didn't connect and the Wolves never got another chance to extend the game. Ty Lawson hit both free throws after getting fouled to put the Nuggets up for good and avoid an embarrassing loss.

Turning point

Credit must go to the Wolves after some accused them of throwing in the towel in the season after Monday's 114-90 loss to the Phoenix Suns. It would have been easy to fold after Love left the game and it would have been even easier to fold after falling behind 24 points.

But the Wolves didn't cave and managed to tie the game on two separate occasions in what would have been one of the more impressive NBA comebacks of recent memory when all things are considered.

Numbers game

3: Rebounds and zero points for Love in eight minutes.

0: Points for Michael Beasley, who played just 10 minutes.

7: Points for former Wolf Kosta Koufos, who started the game at center for the Nuggets.

Injury report

Ridnour missed his fourth straight game with a right ankle sprain he suffered last Monday in a loss at Sacramento. Coach Rick Adelman seemed hopeful the veteran would be ready for Saturday's game against the Oklahoma City but even he wasn't exactly sure.

Darko also didn't make the trip because of a hamstring injury, but Adelman has made it more then clear he has no interest in playing Darko anytime soon.

Up next

The Wolves -- minus Love -- flew home after the game for Thursday's game against Blake Griffin and the Clippers (34-23) at Target Center. They've already won the season series with the Clippers and look to make it a clean four-game sweep, but will likely have to do so without Love.

From there, the Wolves round out a difficult week when Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-15) make their final appearance of the season at Target Center. The Wolves are 0-2 against the Thunder heading into their third and final meeting of the 2011-12 season.