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Love scores 31 points in Timberwolves’ win

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MINNEAPOLIS – Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love entered Tuesday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers with a sore ankle that has pained him for nearly two weeks, and he left Target Center after the Timberwolves’ 109-99 victory with his back, neck and head aching.

Nonetheless, Love delivered his 25th career 30-15 game – one more than Wolves superstar Kevin Garnett did while in Minnesota – with a 31-point, 17-rebound night.

Guard Steve Nash returned to the Lakers lineup for the first time since Nov. 10 and had seven points and nine assists.

But he could not overcome the Timberwolves and Love.

Love paid the proverbial price after absorbing a nasty fall in the game’s final four-plus minutes, after which he eventually got up and just kept on playing.

“I’ve always played a somewhat physical brand of basketball,” Love said afterward. “You get knocked down, you get back up.”

He did so again on Tuesday, when he and his Wolves teammates played their fourth consecutive game without injured starting center Nikola Pekovic.

Without Pekovic, Love has discovered how much more difficult life in the NBA can be.

On Tuesday, Love survived another opponent’s extra defensive attention, now that foes don’t have to worry about Pekovic’s offensive presence underneath the basket.

He also survived that fall when he drove for a layup in a game when he was fouled hard by Lakers center Robert Sacre.

Love fell hard on his hip and back, his head then snapping back hard and hitting the court with a thud that alarmed teammates.

“Scary moment, sounds bad,” Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio said. “But he’s a warrior. He came back and shoots those two free throws. There’s nothing else you can ask for.”

Love played all but the final 29 seconds of the second half on a night when the Wolves played the first of four games in five nights.

With such a demanding stretch ahead of them, Wolves coach Rick Adelman said he didn’t hesitate to ask Love to play nearly 41 minutes. The coach asked guard Kevin Martin to play more than that, as the Lakers reduced a 25-point, second-quarter deficit to just 91-84 with 10 minutes left.

Martin scored 32 points on 13-for-26 shooting while Nick Young led the Lakers with 24 points off the bench.

“The whole goal is to win the game,” said Adelman, whose team ended a two-game losing streak Tuesday after it had won five of six games before that. “I talked to him (Love) about taking him out but there’s a good chance he stiffens up and can’t go back in. I think that was the wise thing to do. All he said was, `I need ice.'”

Love’s two free throws after absorbing Sacre’s hard foul gave the Wolves a 102-91 lead with 4:10 left. The Lakers never got closer than eight points again on a night when they lost their seventh consecutive game and 13th in their last 15 games.

Injured Lakers stars Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol stayed home Monday when the team left Los Angeles on a three-game trip that started Tuesday at Target Center. Then the Lakers lost starting guard Jodie Meeks after he sprained ankle just 86 seconds into the game and power forward Jordan Hill left the game in the second quarter after hurting his neck.

Guard Steve Blake also ruptured his eardrum but kept playing in his first game back after missing the last five weeks, while Nash survived intact and played more than 24 minutes after being sidelined nearly two months with a back problem.

“The problem tonight, we did not compete in the first half and we talked about it at halftime,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “Second half, we played much better. We competed on defense. That’s something you have to do is compete and we did in the second half. We don’t have enough guys or whatever, we aren’t good enough to spot them halves.”

While the Lakers continued to lose players to injury Tuesday, Love said he never considered coming out of the game, even after that scary fall.

Wolves head athletic trainer Gregg Farnam quickly came to Love’s aid, hovering over him as he lay nearly motionless under one basket while the Target Center audience hushed.

“More than anything, what worried me the most was Gregg Farnam was like two inches from my face, I felt bad for his wife,” said Love, who spent extra time in an ice bath after Tuesday’s game. “I’ve taken a few shots here and there. Tonight, I just wanted to stay in the game. I just wanted to do the best I could to help the team. With Pek out it has been tough, but with both of us out that’s about 45 points and 25 rebounds.

“I just want to keep playing and give this all I can so I’ve taken a physical beating. You’ve got to expect, being one of the top guys, that people are going to come at you.”

NOTES: Lakers G Jodie Meeks left the game after just 86 seconds because of a right ankle sprain and did not return. … Lakers F Jordan Hill hurt his neck in the second quarter and did not return, either. …Two-time league MVP G Steve Nash started Tuesday’s contest, playing his first game since the Timberwolves routed the Lakers in Los Angeles on Nov. 10. He missed 39 games because of what the Lakers called a “nerve root irritation” in his back. He played 24:37. Coach Mike D’Antoni said he will not play back-to-back games, starting with Wednesday’s game at Cleveland. “I’m just happy to get a chance to play again and hopefully get a little bit of conditioning and rhythm in a game and clawing my way back to where I can have an impact,” Nash said. … Lakers G Steve Blake also returned Tuesday, his first game since Dec. 10 because of an elbow injury. … The Timberwolves and the WNBA’s Lynx announced they are joining with the Mayo Clinic in a practice facility adjacent to Target Center that will house the Mayo Clinic Square sports-medicine facility as well as two practice courts. The Mayo Clinic is located in Rochester, Minn. …The Timberwolves now practice in a designated part of a private health club in the Target Center basement.

Alan is an experienced writer of online betting and casino guides. He is one of the main editors of Basketballinsiders.

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