Timberwolves-Jazz Preview

The Associated Press

If the Minnesota Timberwolves are to end their recent road woes, they'll have to do so without Ricky Rubio.

A back injury will prevent Rubio from traveling on the team's two-game trip that begins Wednesday night against the Utah Jazz, who will face Andrei Kirilenko in the forward's return to Salt Lake City.

Rubio is dealing with back spasms, a setback after he recently returned from an ACL tear suffered March 9. Rubio, who sat out a 111-107 victory over Phoenix on Saturday, also will miss Thursday's contest against Denver.

Minnesota (14-13) has lost three straight away from home.

"We know we've got a lot of tough games on the road coming up," said forward Kevin Love, who has hit just 31.8 percent from the field in his last six road games.

Love is shooting 35.8 percent overall this season - he hasn't shot below 44.8 percent in his career - and improving on that mark Wednesday may be difficult. He hit 29.3 percent from the field while going 3 for 17 from 3-point range in three games versus Utah last season.

"Everybody's been telling me to keep shooting those shots because it's going to come, and I do believe it will. You've just got to keep working, and that provides good things," Love told the team's official website.

"Some days (the hand he broke during the preseason) feels good and some days it's not so good. Hopefully the new year will bring good things for me and this team.''

Kirilenko hopes that starts Wednesday as he faces the team with which he played his first 10 seasons for the first time. He averaged 12.4 points and 5.6 rebounds for the Jazz, then played in his native Russia last season before signing a two-year deal with the Wolves in July.

The Timberwolves had shot 41.2 percent from the field while dropping four of five overall before shooting 50.6 percent and getting 28 points and 11 rebounds from Nikola Pekovic on Saturday.

"These previous few games, we were just struggling with the fourth quarter and these last few minutes, so we're kind of making some little mistakes," said Pekovic, averaging 22.3 points and 11.5 rebounds in his last four road contests.

He'll look to help Minnesota avoid a sixth straight defeat at Utah (15-17). The Jazz, though, have dropped three in a row and seven of nine after falling 107-96 to the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday despite 30 points from Al Jefferson.

The Jazz also lost 116-114 to the Clippers on Friday, their third straight home defeat after opening 9-1 at EnergySolutions Arena.

"We haven't been playing our best basketball the last few games,'' coach Tyrone Corbin said. "We're playing hard, but we've got to be a little smarter and not make the kind of mistakes we made down the stretch.''

The Jazz, though, are averaging 113.6 points during their home winning streak against the Timberwolves. Jefferson has averaged 11.3 rebounds in seven games versus his former team since being acquired from Minnesota.

Paul Millsap has averaged 24.3 points in his last four against the Timberwolves, though he's scoring only 11.8 per contest while shooting 40.7 percent over his last six. He went 2 for 7 with nine points Sunday.

Gordon Hayward scored 26 points to help overcome 25 and 16 rebounds from Love in Utah's 111-105 overtime victory March 15 in the most recent meeting.

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