Mavericks-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

The Dallas Mavericks entered 2011-12 having dominated the Minnesota Timberwolves over much of the previous six seasons.

It's been a different story this year.

Dallas concludes a three-game trip Friday night hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss to Minnesota, which welcomes back star Kevin Love following a two-game suspension.

The Mavericks (15-11), who from Jan. 7, 2006-March 24, 2011, took 18 of 19 from the Timberwolves (13-13) while outscoring them by an average of 9.6 points, have surprisingly been stifled in the first two meetings.

After its nine-game winning streak at the Target Center came to an end with a 99-82 loss Jan. 1, Dallas was handed a 105-90 defeat at home Jan. 25.

Much of the Mavericks' troubles versus Minnesota can be attributed to their inability to contain Love, who's recorded a combined 56 points and 28 rebounds against them this season.

Love returns to the court after serving his suspension for "driving his foot into the upper body and face of Houston's Luis Scola as Scola was lying on the floor" during Saturday's 100-91 win. The Timberwolves went 1-1 during Love's absence, defeating Sacramento 86-84 on Tuesday before falling 85-80 at Memphis the following night.

While Love acknowledged that his suspension was warranted, he seems ready to put it behind him and is looking forward to continuing his tremendous season.

Ranking in the top five in the NBA with averages of 25.0 points and 13.7 boards, Love was added to the Western Conference All-Star team Thursday.

"It's a lot of joy," he said. "It's really a respect thing. I've had a great season thus far and we've had some success as a team. For me, it's definitely a big deal. I put in a lot of work these last three and a half seasons and I don't intend on stopping."

While Love and the Timberwolves have had their way with Dallas, they could have their hands full with a Mavericks team coming off one of its more inspired efforts of the season. Behind 25 points from Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas defeated Denver 105-95 on Wednesday to snap a three-game skid.

"A win. A much-needed win," said Nowitzki, who was held out Jan. 25 versus Minnesota as part of a planned four-game absence to strengthen his sore right knee.

"We worked hard the last three games in our preparation, trying to keep them out of the lane, trying not to let them get into transition. I liked some of the stuff that we did. We rebounded the ball well. We outrebounded them on the road, and that is definitely a plus when we do that."

After being held to a combined 28 points during his first three games back, Nowitzki is averaging 26.3 on 61.5 percent shooting in his last three. He shot 11 of 20 versus the Nuggets.

"An All-Star performance, didn't you think? He's getting back into a groove offensively and he's looking like himself," coach Rick Carlisle told the NBA's official website.

Nowitzki will be joining Love in Orlando, making his 11th straight All-Star appearance.

"It was a tough road back to full health for me, but I am honored that the coaches thought enough of me to make me an All-Star," he said in a statement.

Jason Kidd, who missed Dallas' last six games with a strained right calf, could be available in this one. He is averaging 4.1 points and 5.1 assists - significantly lower than his career marks of 13.1 and 9.1.

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