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Updated: December 26th, 2012 11:34pm
Wessel: Teammates refuse to throw struggling Kevin Love under bus

Wessel: Teammates refuse to throw struggling Kevin Love under bus

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1500ESPN.com

MINNEAPOLIS -- Safe to say this wasn't how Kevin Love pictured things in his head.

Coming off an Olympic gold medal and a roster he finally thought could make the playoffs, Love has dealt with a hand injury that his own organization was skeptical about, bouts with the flu, a scratched eye and a Yahoo! Story where he once again took shots at the front office.

His 3-for-14 shooting performance in Wednesday's 87-84 choke job against the Houston Rockets may have been the last straw for some frustrated fans, but his teammates and coach are sticking by his side.

"He will be fine. He is our star," J.J. Barea said. "I keep telling him, 'Hey, you're the star. You've got to take the shots.' He is going to have to shoot it. And I am going to live with him shooting open threes and I'll live with him posting up and shooting it every time if he wants to. ...

"He is our star player, it happens to everyone. He'll be back and we will get it going."

Love scored seven points in the first quarter and appeared to be no worse for the wear after missing Sunday's loss in New York with a scratched eye. But he put up a goose egg the rest of the way while shooting 0-for-7 the rest of the way including two missed three pointers that appeared wide-open.

Coach Rick Adelman almost sounded insulted by the notion that he preferred somebody else shooting down the stretch.

"All I can say is, (Love) is our best player. He got wide open threes. I think I will take those every time."

On the final play of the game, Love passed up the chance to be the hero and tie the game with a three. The game ended with rookie Alexey Shved heaving up a broken prayer after the Rockets went small and did an excellent job switching on every screen.

Love acknowledged after the game that not being in a rhythm had something to do with him passing up the shot on the last possession.

Love sat at his locker still in his uniform waiting for the media like he does after every game, but this was a very subdued, quiet, clearly frustrated Love, giving one word answers and not wanting to elaborate.

Perhaps making matters worse for Love was that it was James Harden -- a player recently given that maximum contract that Love so desperately wanted -- that beat the Wolves with 17 points in the fourth quarter and the final six points of the game.

The polar opposite fourth quarters between Love and Harden were viewed by 20,340 fans inside the Target Center -- the third largest crowd in the arena's history.

The NBA is a superstar-driven league and Love is the team's superstar, for better or worse. So Adelman and his teammates will continue to wait for him to snap out of this slump, whether it is mental, physical or, a combination of the two. They really have no other choice.

"He is our best player," Andrei Kirilenko said. "We need him."

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