Timberwolves-Jazz Preview


With a sizable margin separating them from the Western Conference's final playoff spot, the odds aren't in favor of the Minnesota Timberwolves ending the league's longest active postseason drought.

Kevin Love still appears determined to bring it to an end.

Love will try to continue his string of dominant performances while pushing Minnesota to a third straight victory when it visits the Utah Jazz on Saturday night.

Another win would mark just the third streak of three-plus victories this season for the inconsistent Timberwolves (26-28), who have spent just two days over the .500 mark since Nov. 25. They are six games behind Dallas for the No. 8 seed in the West and also trail Memphis by five.

Minnesota hasn't reached the playoffs since 2004, but Love is giving his club a chance with spectacular play. He scored 42 and grabbed 16 rebounds in a 104-91 home victory over East-leading Indiana on Wednesday. He became the first player since Shaquille O'Neal in 2005 to record at least 25 points and 10 boards over eight straight contests.

Wednesday's performance for Love - whose 45 double-doubles lead the league - also came against the NBA's top defense in terms of both scoring and field goal percentage.

"I thought a lot of the shots he made was good defense," Pacers coach Frank Vogel said of Love, who is averaging 32.9 points and 15.3 rebounds over his last eight contests. "You have to give him credit. He is an extraordinary player and he played an extraordinary game tonight."

Love's play has been even more crucial lately with second- and third-leading scorers Kevin Martin (19.0 ppg) and Nikola Pekovic (18.0 ppg) sidelined. Martin has missed four straight games with a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb, while Pekovic has sat out the last 10 due to right ankle bursitis.

Minnesota's depth took another hit Thursday with the Timberwolves declaring Ronny Turiaf out indefinitely after an exam revealed a bone bruise in his right knee, an injury he suffered in the fourth quarter Wednesday. Turiaf had started 10 straight games in place of Pekovic.

Dante Cunningham is listed as a probable starter for Saturday and fared well in two starts earlier this month, averaging 16.0 points and 9.0 rebounds.

The Timberwolves had dropped 11 of 13 in the series and five in a row before winning the season's first two meetings last month by a combined 41 points. Love was relatively quiet, averaging 18.5 points and 13.0 rebounds. A 112-97 victory on Jan. 21 ended Minnesota's seven-game skid in Salt Lake City.

The Jazz (19-35) squandered an opportunity at a marquee victory on Friday night, falling 102-94 at Portland despite a nine-point lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

Derrick Favors missed his second straight game due to a hip injury, but Enes Kanter helped compensate for his absence with a career high-matching 25 points along with 10 rebounds. Kanter also had 18 points and 10 rebounds while starting in place of Favors in Wednesday's loss to Brooklyn.

Gordon Hayward scored 27 points in the Jan. 21 loss to Minnesota in his first game back after sitting out five contests due to a hip flexor injury. However, he's averaging just 12.2 points on 31.3 percent shooting in 11 games since.