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Timberwolves-Grizzlies Preview

AP - Sports

The Minnesota Timberwolves are undoubtedly a stronger team with Kevin Love in the lineup, but for one game, they came out on top without their All-Star forward.

The Timberwolves get another chance to prove they're far from a one-man team.

With Love finishing his two-game suspension, the visiting Timberwolves will try to win four in a row for the first time in two seasons on Wednesday night when the struggling Memphis Grizzlies go for a sixth consecutive victory in this series.

Love, the team leader with 25.0 points per game and 13.7 rebounds, missed Tuesday's 86-84 victory over Sacramento after being suspended two games for stepping on Houston's Luis Scola during the third quarter of Saturday's 100-91 win.

Without Love, the Timberwolves (13-12) received big contributions up front. Center Nikola Pekovic had 23 points, Michael Beasley added 17 and rookie Derrick Williams - making his third start - scored half of his 14 in the final four minutes. That trio combined for 32 of the team's 49 rebounds.

"I think (playing without Love) builds character and it builds a winning attitude,'' Beasley said. "Especially go up over .500 (for the first time this season), that's real important for us.''

Minnesota last won four in a row from Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010. That run was capped off by a 109-102 victory over the Grizzlies - the Timberwolves' last win in this series.

Minnesota also will go for its first 4-0 run away from home since Jan. 3-19, 2009.

Memphis (12-13) will try to extend its winning streak in this series following a 90-86 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 4.

Tony Allen scored a team-high 20 points for the Grizzlies in that contest, but he could miss a third consecutive game with a sore hip and knee.

That could be a big loss as coach Lionel Hollins is trying to better manage his players' minutes during this condensed 66-game schedule. Rudy Gay (45), center Marc Gasol (42) and Mike Conley (41) all logged heavy minutes in Monday's 89-84 home loss to San Antonio.

Memphis scored 11 fourth-quarter points - a season low for any period - after a 25-6 run to end the third.

"It was tough,'' Gay said after the team lost its third straight to open a season-high five-game homestand. "A couple of guys were fatigued from playing a lot of heavy minutes."

Conley will need all the energy he can muster with rookie point guard Ricky Rubio averaging 11.8 points, 9.9 assists and 3.0 steals since coach Rick Adelman inserted him into the starting five 15 games ago.

Rubio's five steals on Tuesday vaulted him ahead of Conley for first in the NBA with 2.44 per game. The Spanish point guard had 12 points, 10 assists and two steals on Jan. 4.

Conley scored 12 points with eight assists and three steals.

Love will miss a second consecutive game in Memphis. He was sidelined with a strained left groin in a 106-89 loss at FedExForum on April 2.

The Grizzlies have won four straight at home over Minnesota and eight of nine overall in this series.

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