Timberwolves-Hornets Preview

The Associated Press

Despite Kevin Love's issues with the Minnesota Timberwolves as a franchise, the team has played well of late.

Not even the return of New Orleans' prized rookie has helped the Hornets end their latest slide.

The visiting Timberwolves look to match a season high with a third straight victory and hand the Hornets a sixth consecutive defeat Friday night.

Hours before Minnesota (10-9) beat Denver 108-105 on Wednesday for its fifth win in seven games, Love tried to clarify his comments from a recent Internet story in which he questioned decisions made by team president David Kahn. Though Love stood by what he said about Kahn's building of the team and his complaint of getting a four-year deal instead of the maximum five-year contract extension last January, he remains happy with the team's direction.

Minnesota has averaged 97.9 points over the last seven games after averaging 91.8 in losing each of its previous five.

"I'm not going to fall back and say I didn't mean the things that I said,'' Love said prior to Wednesday's victory. "I do believe this is the closest-knit team that we have, the coaching staff has been great and we have a chance to make something very special this year and for years to come.''

Love was jeered by some Minnesota fans, and not entirely because he shot 3 of 17 and had eight points to go with 14 rebounds against the Nuggets. It was the worst shooting performance when attempting at least eight shots in his career.

"If we can win and I can have a game like that, I'm not going to be mad,'' said Love, averaging 19.9 points and 14.2 boards in 10 games since missing the first nine with a broken hand. "I was very happy.''

With Love struggling, Nikola Pekovic had 22 points with 11 rebounds while Andrei Kirilenko scored 18 and J.J. Barea added 17, eight assists and five rebounds as Minnesota set a season high for points.

"It was a team win," Barea told the Timberwolves' official website. "Our star Kevin struggled a little bit, but everyone else stepped up. That's when a team becomes good."

The Timberwolves have not played all that well lately against the Hornets, averaging 86.8 points and shooting 39.2 percent in losing two straight and three of four. Love, however, has averaged 30.0 points and 14.7 boards in the last three at New Orleans.

If the Hornets' success versus Minnesota is to continue they must snap a five-game skid in which they've averaged 84.8 points and shot 41.1 percent. Though New Orleans (5-16) has had No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis back for the last two contests after an 11-game absence due to a sore ankle, the results have been the same.

Brian Roberts scored 16 points off the bench while Davis added 11 in Wednesday's 92-88 loss at Oklahoma City. The Hornets led by 11 late in the third quarter before the Thunder used a 16-2 run to ultimately control the contest.

"I thought we competed,'' New Orleans coach Monty Williams said. "I thought we brought an edge. Obviously we lost the game, but when we compete that way you give yourselves a chance.''

The Hornets will try to avoid matching their season high with a fourth consecutive home loss Friday.

The Timberwolves learned Friday that guard Malcolm Lee, a starter for 12 of the last 13 games, will be out indefinitely with an injury to his right knee.

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