Hawks-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

Losing Kevin Love to injury leaves a huge hole in the Minnesota Timberwolves' lineup, but coach Rick Adelman can't afford for his team to wait for the All-Star forward to return.

Now, it's uncertain when Adelman will be back.

Though Adelman won't be with the team Tuesday night, point guard Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic will be available as the host Timberwolves try to end an 11-game losing streak to the Atlanta Hawks.

A statement released by the team Tuesday said Adelman was not with Minnesota (15-14) for this game due to personal reasons. It's uncertain if Adelman, who also missed practice Monday, would accompany the team for the start of its road trip Wednesday at Oklahoma City.

Love missed the first three weeks of the season with a broken right hand, and re-fractured that hand in Thursday's 101-97 victory at Denver. Love, averaging 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds, will visit a hand specialist in New York City this week to learn if he'll need surgery.

"The league doesn't stop for you, there's nobody coming over the mountain for us, it's who we've got right now," Adelman said after Saturday's 102-97 home loss to Portland. "And that's what we have to do, and everybody has to step up."

Without Love, Pekovic - along with Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams - becomes an even more critical part to the Timberwolves' inside game. It was unclear if the third-year center, averaging career highs with 15.9 points and 8.3 boards, would play this game after missing Monday's practice due to a hip strain suffered Saturday.

However, the team said Tuesday that Pekovic will be able to play, as will Rubio after missing the past four games. The Spanish playmaker has been battling back spasms that Adelman said could be the result of overcompensating for a knee injury that caused Rubio to miss the first 20 games this season and the final 25 of 2011-12.

The Timberwolves, who open a four-game trip on Wednesday against Oklahoma City, will try to build some momentum for that stretch with their first victory over Atlanta since an 84-83 home win on April 9, 2006.

While the Hawks (20-12) have won five in a row at Minnesota since that defeat, coach Larry Drew isn't feeling confident about his team's play after it was outscored 33-9 in the third quarter of Saturday's 89-81 loss to Boston.

Atlanta led by as many as 19 in the second period before suffering its third setback in four games.

"When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It's just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team is the league has to do it," said Drew, whose team rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to defeat visiting Minnesota 93-91 on Jan. 14. "And when you don't do it, you get labeled, you get a tag on you. And that's the last thing I want to happen to my ball club."

The possible return of Anthony Morrow (strained right hip) and Devin Harris (sore left foot) from injury could help Drew's club. Morrow, who has missed the last five games, and Harris, who has been sidelined for the last 10, will travel with the team as it also plays Cleveland on Wednesday night.

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