Pekovic, Love lead Timberwolves to 111-107 win over Suns

The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange


MINNEAPOLIS - Two-time All Star Kevin Love worked overtime the last three days in an effort to carry himself and his team successfully into 2013, and then teammate Nikola Pekovic took the Timberwolves there in Saturday's 111-107 victory over Phoenix at Target Center.
Losers of big leads in consecutive games before Saturday, the Wolves watched a nine-point, third-quarter lead disappear before Love sent himself into the New Year encouraged and Pekovic sent the Wolves into it with a winning 13-12 record thanks to his six points scored in fewer than two minutes down the stretch.
Pekovic's 28-point, 11-rebound night and Love's 23-point, 18-rebound game helped end a two-game losing streak while sending the Suns to their fifth consecutive defeat.
With Ricky Rubio a late scratch because of back spasms, the Wolves played with just three healthy guards, but they compensated with a frontcourt that combined for 68 points on 31 for 53 shooting once you add in Andrei Kirilenko's 20-point night.
A team that failed to finish games Sunday in New York and Wednesday at home against Houston finally did so on Saturday, when Pekovic finally listened to his coach and got his body down to the basket against Suns forward Luis Scola when his team needed it most.
Trailing 102-99 with 3:47 left, Pekovic scored six of his team's next eight points, four of them on layups and one on a short hook shot that sent his team from three points behind into a 107-106 lead with 97 seconds left that they relinquished.
"Pek's been playing awesome," Love said of Pekovic's 13 for 20 shooting night. "He has just been so consistent. He plays so close to the rim, he's going to be consistent for us and he's one of those guys who's always going to shoot a high percentage."
Sidetracked most of the season by injury, illness and some untimely comments made to Yahoo!Sports, Love stayed long after practice for three days since Wednesday's disappointing home loss to the Rockets and responded Saturday by delivered a double-double that offset Scola's 33-point, 10-rebound night.
Love worked on his shot and his conditioning long after practices Thursday and Friday and after Saturday's morning shootaround. He shot 3-for-14 Wednesday in a game when Houston's James Harden played like the guy worthy of a five-year, $80 million contract extension that Love wanted from the Wolves.
"Some days it feels good, some days it doesn't feel so good," Love said about shooting with that healing hand after making eight of 20 shots Saturday. "Hopefully, the New Year will bring a lot of good things for me and more importantly for the team. I was a little reluctant to shoot the ball last game because it just didn't feel right.
"Everybody's been telling to shoot those shots because it's going to come. I really do believe it will."
The Wolves overcame 10 missed free throws (16-26) and withstood an Suns team (11-19) that made just two of 17 three-point shots and lost its seventh game by four or fewer points.
"We cannot finish any of them," Suns point guard Goran Dragic said. "All of those games were close, even tonight's game. We just have to battle and try to get a little bit of confidence."
NOTES: Dragic returned Saturday after missing Friday's loss at Indiana because of a hip contusion sustained Wednesday night at home against New York. ... Rubio was scratched just before the opening tap because his back was too stiff to play. He said the other day that his surgically repaired knee feels fine, but his body is sore from playing without the benefit of a training camp. ... Wolves veteran guard Brandon Roy's will pursue yet another treatment option to heal his degenerative knees. On Thursday, he was hopeful two consecutive days of full practices would prepare him to play Saturday for the first time since Nov. 9. But he continues to experience pain and will undergo treatment that president of basketball operations David Kahn called "non-invasive" and "non-surgical." The results of it won't be known for three to four weeks, Kahn said. It is not the same Regenokine program Roy underwent in Los Angeles last May. The Target Center media room on Saturday morning was set up for a press conference, presumably announcing Roy's retirement, but that never came. Roy underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee on Nov. 19. "I've felt better since the recent surgery, but I am not all the way better," he said in a statement released by the team. He said he decided to explore "additional treatment options and an extensive rehabilitation plan." ... The Suns have three former Wolves on their roster: guard Sebastian Telfair and forwards Michael Beasley and Wes Johnson. Beasley was signed as an unrestricted free agent last summer to a three-year, $18 million contract and Johnson, a former No. 4 overall pick, was traded in a deal when the Wolves gave Phoenix a future first-round pick to take Johnson and his contract so they could clear cap room to sign Andrei Kirilenko. Beasley played just nine minutes off the bench in his return, scoring two points on 1-for-8 shooting.