Mavericks-Timberwolves Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Timberwolves can breathe a sigh of relief since an injury to Kevin Love doesn't appear to be serious.

Now they may get a boost from Ricky Rubio.

Rubio will make his long-awaited season debut for the Timberwolves in Saturday night's home matchup with the Dallas Mavericks.

Minnesota (11-9) enters in search of a season-high fourth straight win after Friday's 113-102 victory at New Orleans. Love hurt his right thumb, made only 4 of 18 shots for 14 points and grabbed nine rebounds, but X-rays on the thumb were negative.

"I'm a little down because I'm trying to work through stuff with my hand and then this happens," said Love, who missed the first nine games with a broken hand and has shot 7 for 35 in his last two. "We won. That's keeping me from out of the gutter."

Rubio, meanwhile, was cleared to play early Saturday after practicing with the team for nearly two weeks. This will be his first game since tearing knee ligaments in March.

Coach Rick Adelman has said the next step was "to get him in games and see how he reacts" and notes that the Timberwolves can't predict how many minutes they will give him at first.

Rubio averaged 10.6 points and 8.2 assists as a rookie last season - figures that were 13.7 and 9.0 in three games against Dallas (11-12).

Even with Love playing a limited role Friday, Minnesota's frontcourt dominated. Nikola Pekovic made 14 of 18 shots for a career-high 31 points and Andrei Kirilenko added 21 and 11 boards.

Kirilenko has returned for every game of this win streak after missing four with back spasms.

"He's terrific,'' Adelman said. "He's all over the court, and he's the glue of our team. He really is.''

A healthier Timberwolves team could make this task even tougher for the Mavericks, who fell 90-82 at home to Minnesota on Nov. 12 when Love was out. Pekovic had 20 points and Kirilenko added 16 and 11 rebounds as the Timberwolves held a 49-35 edge on the glass.

Dallas will try to regroup after finishing with its lowest point total in Friday's 95-74 loss at Toronto. Leading scorer O.J. Mayo was held to 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting and committed six of the Mavs' 17 turnovers.

"Just got to get better," Mayo said. "Can't keep turning the ball over and expect to help this team win."

The Mavs went 0 for 13 from 3-point range as their streak of 1,108 games with at least one 3 came to an end. They allowed 26 points off their turnovers.

"We played poorly and they played great," coach Rick Carlisle said. "I don't know how else to sum it up. It's as simple as that.''

Minnesota has lost four straight games in the second halves of back-to-back contests while Dallas is 2-3 in such games.

The Mavs have won 10 of their last 11 visits to Minnesota.

Wolves swingman Josh Howard, a former Maverick, hyperextended his right knee in the third quarter Friday and did not return.

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