Timberwolves-Nuggets Preview

The Associated Press

Kevin Love has helped the Minnesota Timberwolves climb back to .500.

A rare victory in Denver would give them a winning record and pull them even with the Nuggets in the Northwest Division.

Love and the Timberwolves go for their first four-game winning streak in two years Monday night when they try to snap a six-game losing streak to Denver.

In six contests since serving a two-game suspension for stepping on Houston's Luis Scola, Love has averaged 27.7 points and 16.3 rebounds. He's helped the Timberwolves (16-16) win their last three games following a four-game skid, returning to the .500 mark at the latest point in a season since they were 22-22 on Jan. 29, 2007.

Love had a rough start Sunday by missing 13 of his first 15 shots, but the All-Star forward recovered to pour in 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter of a 92-91 victory over Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia, including two game-winning free throws with one-tenth of a second remaining.

"They say if you keep putting yourself in that situation (of closing games), you're going to eventually get comfortable with it," Love said after grabbing 15 boards to complete his league-best 28th double-double.

The Timberwolves, who last won four straight Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010, will have to get comfortable playing away from home as of 16 of their next 23 games are on the road.

Love averaged 29.0 points and 16.7 rebounds in three games against the Nuggets in 2010-11. A groin injury sidelined him the last time these teams met, a Denver 130-106 home win April 9.

The Nuggets (17-15) have won 16 of the last 17 meetings with the Timberwolves, but they return to Denver with 10 losses in their last 13 games overall.m They finished an 0-3 trip Sunday with a 124-118 overtime loss to Western Conference-leading Oklahoma City.

Denver fell despite leading by as many as nine points in the fourth quarter, and five in the final minute.

"In a lot of ways we won the game, but the scoreboard says we lost it,'' said coach George Karl, whose team fell 103-102 to Memphis on Friday on a tip-in with less than one second left.

Despite the rough trip, the Nuggets have to feel good about Arron Afflalo's team-high 27 points Sunday. He got back on track after totaling 11 points and shooting 2 of 13 through the first two games of the trek.

Afflalo averaged 18.7 points on 55.9 percent shooting in three games against Minnesota last season. Like Love, he missed the April 9 game due to injury (strained hamstring).

If Nuggets forward Nene (calf) is sidelined for a fifth consecutive game, Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic could have an easier time setting a franchise record by grabbing five or more offensive rebounds in a sixth consecutive game. He tied Love's mark with five against the 76ers.

Pekovic is averaging 21.0 points and 11.6 boards over his last five games.

Timberwolves rookie Ricky Rubio and Denver's Ty Lawson will face each other for the first time since Minnesota selected both point guards - in addition to Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn - in the first round of the 2009 draft.

Rubio scored a season-high 22 points Sunday and has 40 in his last two games.

Lawson averaged 26.3 points and 6.7 assists in three games versus Minnesota in 2010-11. He set career highs with 10 3-pointers and 37 points the last time the Timberwolves were in town.

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