It's been six seasons since the Minnesota Timberwolves had a winning record after 25 games. If they are to achieve that feat again, they must do it without their best player.
Looking to move above .500 with a third straight victory, the Timberwolves will be without suspended star Kevin Love on Tuesday night when they try to snap the visiting Sacramento Kings' season-high three-game winning streak.
Coming off consecutive victories over New Jersey and Houston, Minnesota (12-12) is in position to surpass the .500 mark after 25 games for the first time since 2005-06. The Timberwolves have averaged 106.8 points while winning three of four overall.
"It does feel good to be .500 right now, but we still want to come out and keep this thing going in the right direction,'' Love said.
The Timberwolves must do that without Love, who will serve the first of his two-game suspension for stomping on Houston's Luis Scola as the Rocket forward was lying on the floor during Minnesota's 100-91 victory Saturday. Though Love (25.0 points, 13.7 rebounds per game) has grown frustrated because he believes game officials have failed to consistently police some overly physical play this season, he apologized to Scola both after the game and in a statement issued by the team on Monday.
"I don't want to be known for that,'' said Love, who admitted he needs to do a better job of handling his emotions. "I want to be known as a stand-up guy who happened to make a mistake with a size 19 shoe and just move on. So everybody knows there were no ill intentions there.''
As Love tries to move on from this incident, his teammates must go forward without him. Love had 33 points and 11 rebounds in Minnesota's 99-86 home victory over Sacramento on Jan. 16. Luke Ridnour added 25 points with nine assists in that contest.
Ridnour scored 22 while backcourt mate Ricky Rubio added 13 with 11 assists against the Rockets.
"We're just keeping our composure this year,'' said Ridnour, averaging a career-high 12.3 points.
The Timberwolves also will have forward Michael Beasley and backup guard J.J. Barea on the floor for this contest after the pair missed last month's win over the Kings.
Sacramento (9-15) had one of its lowest scoring games of the season at Minnesota, but has averaged 103.0 points during its current three-game winning streak.
The Kings shot 47.4 percent while overcoming an 18-point deficit to win 100-92 at New Orleans on Monday. DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points with 19 rebounds and Tyreke Evans scored 11 of his 20 in the fourth quarter as Sacramento outscored the lowly Hornets 31-14 in the final period.
Sacramento snapped a four-game road skid to improve to 3-11 away from home.
"We're just playing great basketball right now,'' Evans said. "We want to keep that up and try to be in the race for the playoffs.''
Cousins, who has totaled 49 points with 39 rebounds in the last two games, could benefit from Love's absence even though he's combined for 34 points and 18 boards in four career games versus Minnesota.
Evans has averaged 23.4 points and 7.2 assists in the last five games, but he was held to nine on 3-of-11 shooting while posting 10 assists and eight rebounds at Minnesota last month.