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Timberwolves 111, Suns 107

The SportsXchange

MINNEAPOLIS -- Two-time All Star Kevin Love put in three days worth of hard work in an attempt 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.

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 Houston, and in turn delivered a 23-point, 18-rebound double-double that offset Phoenix counterpart Luis Scola's 33-point night.

While the two power forwards in essence canceled each other out, Pekovic stepped forth when his team needed it most to end a two-game losing streak since they beat Oklahoma City nine days earlier.

Pekovic scored six of his team-high 28 points in the final four minutes, powering a late 10-5 flourish that won the game.

The Wolves had led by nine points in the third quarter, but once again let a sizable lead slip away.

This time, they went from a 72-63 lead with four minutes gone in the third quarter to a 102-99 deficit with less than four minutes remaining before Pekovic answered with a pair of layups that pushed the Wolves back into a one-point lead.

When Phoenix regained a one-point lead, Pekovic answered again, putting the Wolves ahead to stay with another layup and a 107-106 lead with 1:33 left.

Teammate Alexey Shved (12 points, 10 assists) followed by making three free throws that twice gave the Wolves a three-point lead before the Suns squandered one last chance to tie the game.

They had the ball and a chance to tie with a three-pointer when Minnesota forward Dante Cunningham stole an inbounds pass with seven seconds left on a night when the two teams combined to score 112 points in the paint.

The loss was the Suns' fifth consecutive defeat.

Love followed Wednesday's 3 for 14 shooting performance, in which he was completely outdone by Houston's James Harden, by putting in two long practice days and then shooting long after his teammates had left Saturday morning's shootaround.

All that work was intended to overcome a season that has been interrupted by a broken hand, a bruised thumb, a poke in the eye, some back pain and a couple bouts with the flu that left him feeling beat up and out of sorts.

Until the last few days, he said.

"It's fun to actually have my body feel good out there," he said. "And it has the last couple days. ... I have to look at it like 2013 is right around the corner. And every game is a new day, a new time to prove the team, improve myself and keep pushing through this."

He responded with that double-double performance in a duel with Suns forward Luis Scola, who countered with 33 points and 10 rebounds himself.

Scola is the guy whose face Love stepped on during a game at Target Center when Scola played for Houston last season. The transgression earned Love a two-game suspension.

The Wolves played without point guard Ricky Rubio, who missed what would have been the sixth game in his comeback from March knee surgery because of back spasms.

Rubio was limited to 18 minutes in his first four games back, then was increased to 21 minutes in Wednesday's home loss to Houston. He said recently that his surgically repaired knee feels fine, but the rest of him is sore and achy from having been thrown straight into a season without any preparatory training camp.

Former Wolves forward Michael Beasley returned to Target Center Saturday for the first time since he left Minnesota last summer as a restricted free agent and delivered a forgettable two points on 1 for 9 shooting in just nine minutes off the bench.

NOTES: Suns starting point guard Goran Dragic returned Saturday after missing Friday's loss at Indiana because of a hip contusion sustained Wednesday night at home against New York. ... 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.
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