Timberwolves-Pelicans Preview

The Associated Press

Winning without your best player can be quite a challenge, and the Minnesota Timberwolves certainly haven't done well when Kevin Love is not on the floor.

The Timberwolves are hoping they won't be without their All-Star forward for a second straight game when they visit Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night.

Love took a hard fall in Tuesday's win over the Los Angeles Lakers and sat out against Oklahoma City on Wednesday because of a stiff neck. Dante Cunningham stepped into the starting five and scored 18 points, but Minnesota (24-25) lost 106-97 and dropped to 0-2 this season when Love is not in the lineup.

The versatile big man, who is averaging 25.6 points and 13.2 rebounds in 2013-14, also missed 64 games last season because of a broken hand and the team went 22-42 in his absence. The Timberwolves were 9-9 in games Love played.

Minnesota was also without center Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and forward Corey Brewer (family leave) in the loss to the Thunder.

"I think it shows that these guys compete," coach Rick Adelman said. "They weren't afraid to go play them with three starters out. It gave the other guys an opportunity to play. I couldn't be prouder of the way they competed. We just ran a little bit out of gas at the end."

Without Love and Pekovic, second-year Pelicans center Davis has a chance to dominate the paint Friday. Davis, averaging 20.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 3.3 blocks, is coming off a 27-point, 10-rebound performance in a 105-100 win over Atlanta on Wednesday.

Love's status remains unknown. In two previous meetings with New Orleans (21-27) this season - both victories - Love has averaged 25.5 points and 10.0 rebounds, though he has gone 2 for 13 from 3-point range.

Davis, who has been selected to replace the injured Kobe Bryant in the NBA All-Star game, was held out of the most recent meeting on Jan. 29 because of a finger injury after he was limited to 13 points and six rebounds in a 124-112 road loss on New Year's Day when both Love and Pekovic were in the lineup and combined for 43 points.

Brian Roberts chipped in with 19 points and six assists against the Hawks on Wednesday to help the Pelicans reach their highest point total in three weeks.

"Brian Roberts probably looked around and didn't see anyone making shots so he stepped up. I told him to play free," coach Monty Williams said. "The first half I thought he was a bit tight. I'm always telling our guys everybody has written you guys off, so what do you have to lose? Just go out there and play. I got your back either way."

New Orleans has injury issues of its own, with Tyreke Evans joining other key players Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson on the bench.

With Evans sitting out against Atlanta due to torn cartilage in his rib cage, Anthony Morrow filled in as the team's top reserve. Morrow is averaging 18.0 points over the last two games while shooting 80.0 percent from 3-point range.

"The opportunity is there. There have been great screens from the big guys and the point guards are finding me," Morrow said. "So I'm trying to come in and contribute and contribute to these wins."

Evans is listed as day-to-day, though Williams said the guard - who is averaging 12.5 points - could miss an entire week.

This game will be the first for the Pelicans in the newly-renamed Smoothie King Center after the team announced a 10-year naming rights deal Thursday.

Minnesota has won four consecutive meetings against New Orleans.