Two-man show: Kevin Love, Luke Ridnour lift Wolves in Charlotte
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In essence, Love and Ridnour had to beat the Charlotte Bobcats by themselves in Wednesday's 88-83 win over the worst team in the league. Already playing without J.J. Barea, Nikola Pekovic and Michael Beasley, Love and Ridnour got little to no contribution from their teammates and did all the dirty work.
Love scored 40 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, shooting 4-of-7 from 3-point range, 14-of-31 overall and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
Ridnour was right there with him, playing an excellent two-man game with Love on a nigh they both played 43 minutes. The veteran guard finished with 15 points, 14 assists -- just one shy of his career-high -- five rebounds and two steals despite a nagging groin injury.
Love and Ridnour were the only two starters in double-figures and accounted for 55 of the 88 points. Anthony Tolliver added 11 points and 11 rebounds.
But it in a game the Wolves simply needed to win to have any chance left at sneaking into the playoffs, it was Love and Ridnour who did everything to make sure the victory was secured -- including playing every minute of the second half.
Love and Ridnour established their dominance early in the game. Love scored nine of the team's first 11 points and Ridnour dished five assists while the Wolves took a 24-21 lead after the first quarter.
The Wolves took advantage of their weak opponent in the second quarter by giving the second unit extended run. Malcolm Lee played his most comfortable and confident stretch of basketball since making his NBA debut 18 days ago.
Lee says he is comfortable with the offense, but he is obviously thrust into this position because of the injuries to Barea and Ricky Rubio. Lee finished with four points on 2-of-3 shooting in five big minutes that allowed Ridnour to rest his legs and help preserve them for the fourth quarter.
The Wolves and Bobcats each exchanged 9-0 runs late in the second quarter and the Wolves headed into the locker room down two points.
The break Love and Ridnour got in the second quarter became even more crucial later in the game because coach Rick Adelman couldn't afford to take his two best players off the court.
The Wolves took a four-point lead into four quarter and that's when Love really began to flex his muscles, opening the final frame with back-to-back 3-pointers -- both assisted by Ridnour -- and the Wolves had a relatively easy path to their second win at Charlotte in eight tries.
Love scored 14 of the 20 points in the fourth quarter, while Ridnour added four assists and two points. The Wolves were up 11 with 1:45 to go before the Bobcats scored the final five.
3: Players Adelman used off the bench. Even in dire circumstances, he refuses to go to Darko Milicic or Anthony Randolph.
0: Points off the bench for Wayne Ellington, who had strung together four consecutive double-digit games. He was 0-of-5 shooting in 24 minutes.
1: Double-double this season for Tolliver.
Beasley aggravated his toe injury in Tuesday's loss at Memphis proved accurate when he was ruled out before the game. Beasley played just 11 minutes on Tuesday night and has now missed four of the past nine games.
The injury first occurred March 12 in a win at Phoenix and Beasley has been a game-time decision ever since.
Barea (thigh bruise) and Pekovic (ankle) remained in the Twin Cities rehabbing their injuries with the hopes of playing Friday night against the Boston Celtics.
It is unclear whether the Wolves will practice on Thursday or not because of how banged up they are, but they will almost surely at least get in some type of informal workout/body treatment session when they return home.
Friday's game against Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics (27-22) -- the only meeting between the teams this season -- will be only the Wolves' second at Target Center since March 12.
Amazingly, after playing nine road games in the last 18 days, the Wolves get Saturday off before hitting the road again for another back-to-back, this time on the West Coast. The Wolves play the Portland Trail Blazers (23-27) and the Sacramento Kings (17-32) on Sunday and Monday.