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Love Carries Wolves Over Kings

Kevin Love, Minnesota Timberwolves
Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Disgusted with his performance since coming back from a broken right hand, Kevin Love decided to play without his protective glove Tuesday night against Sacramento.

Despite no extra padding for his healing shooting hand, the All-Star forward played a bruising inside game and rediscovered his outside shot as well.

Love had 23 points and an NBA season-high 24 rebounds to help the Minnesota Timberwolves stop a five-game losing streak by beating the Kings, 97-89.

After missing the first nine games this season, Love returned last week. Bothered by the awkwardness of that fingerless padded glove, he shot 35 percent from the field in his first three games. He hit only 19 percent of his 3-point attempts and was just under 65 percent from the free throw line.

Love was unstoppable on the boards Tuesday, but it was the shooting that pleased him most. He went 8-of-17 from the floor and 5-of-6 at the foul line. Although he shot 2-for-8 from 3-point range, Love said most of those attempts were on target and felt good coming out of his hand.

“The glove was pretty restricting for me,” Love said. “Every day my hand is getting stronger. The ball still doesn’t feel quite right in my hand, but it’s getting better.”

And for one night, the struggling Timberwolves (6-7) were better as well. They took the lead late in the first quarter and never trailed again.

It helped that Love grabbed an amazing 21 defensive rebounds and helped Minnesota to a 51-36 overall edge on the boards. Love had six points in the fourth quarter and played nearly 44 minutes overall.

Love even benefited from a little luck, tossing in an off-balance 15-footer that went in as the shot clock was winding down to give the Timberwolves a four-point lead with 27 seconds left.

Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins each scored 20 points for the Kings, who had won two of their previous three games. Isaiah Thomas and Marcus Thornton both had 12.

Love was clearly a major force, but he had plenty of help as well. Luke Ridnour scored 18 and Nikola Pekovic had 16 points and eight rebounds for the Timberwolves, who had fallen into a tailspin after starting the season 5-2. Andrei Kirilenko had 14 points and Malcolm Lee added 10.

Two free throws by Cousins pulled Sacramento to 91-89 with just under 3 minutes left. But Pekovic got free for a layup off a pass from Kirilenko, and Love followed with his unorthodox shot, giving the Timberwolves a 95-89 lead.

A tip-in by Love with 3:12 left was his 24th rebound. Anderson Varejao of Cleveland had the previous high this season with 23 rebounds.

Despite the play of Love, the Kings remained close and pulled to 90-87 when Thomas made a breakaway layup. Fouled on the play, Thomas converted the free throw with just under 3 minutes to play.

Alexey Shved made a pair of 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter and a fast-break dunk by Kirilenko gave Minnesota an 85-76 lead at the 7:03 mark.

Five turnovers in the fourth quarter, several of them at crucial times, hindered the Kings’ comeback effort.

After struggling with his shot in the first half, Love got going in the third quarter. He made several perimeter shots and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds. Ridnour also shot well, scoring eight points to help Minnesota take a 75-67 lead into the fourth.

Cousins, ejected from his previous game after arguing a foul call, picked up two quick fouls in the third quarter and went to the bench with four fouls at the 8:55 mark.

Pekovic had 12 points and Love had eight points and 11 rebounds in the opening half as the Timberwolves built a 48-45 advantage. Cousins scored 10 points for the Kings.

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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Material may not be redistributed.

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