MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — Nikola Pekovic had 28 points and 11 rebounds and Kevin Love added 23 points and 18 boards to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 111-107 victory over the Phoenix Suns on Saturday night.
Andrei Kirilenko added 20 points and five rebounds for the Timberwolves, who were missing guard Ricky Rubio because of back spasms.
Luis Scola had 33 points and 10 rebounds for the Suns, who lost their fifth straight game. They led 102-99 with 3:30 to play, but once again failed to close it out.
Pekovic scored two quick ones underneath but the Suns still had a chance down three with 8.1 seconds left. But Dante Cunningham stole the inbounds pass to seal it.
It was a tough way to lose it for the Suns, who only committed five turnovers in the game. Shannon Brown scored 21 points and Goran Dragic added 16 points and 12 assists for Phoenix.
Rubio’s injury left the Wolves with three healthy guards in the game, so they naturally leaned on the big guys up front to do most of the work. They scored 58 points in the paint to negate poor shooting from 3-point range (5 for 18) and at the free throw line (16 for 26).
Alexey Shved had 12 points and 10 assists for the Wolves, including two clutch free throws that gave Minnesota a three-point lead with 55 seconds to play.
The Suns were equally tough at the rim in a game that occasionally resembled pregame layup lines with the ease with which both teams got to the basket.
Dragic played with a sore hip that kept him out of the previous, but he didn’t look any worse for wear on Saturday night. He ran the pick-and-roll and jumpstarted the Suns break with impressive efficiency. The Suns didn’t turn the ball over until 7:37 was left in the first half.
Love may have only made 8 of 20 shots, but he needed a bounce-back game like this after a curiously lifeless performance in a loss to Houston on Wednesday. He has struggled with his shooting ever since coming back at the end of November from two broken bones in his right hand. He admitted earlier on Saturday that all the clanking had frustrated him to the point that it was trickling down to other parts of his game, including his effort on the defensive end and getting other people involved. Even his home fans were growing a little restless, directing some anger at the franchise player after he publicly criticized the organization a few weeks ago.
Love entered the night shooting a career-worst 35.5 percent from the field and just 22.5 percent on 3-pointers. He came out much more aggressive against the Suns, scoring 13 points and hitting two of his three 3s in the first quarter.
Scola rendered Love’s strong start almost inconsequential. The Argentinian had everything going on Saturday, knocking down 18-footers, spinning to the rim on breakaways and dropping soft hook shots over Love for easy buckets.
NOTES: Former Timberwolves F Michael Beasley received a healthy round of boos when he entered the game off the bench for the first time. He finished with two points and missed 7 of 8 shots. … The Wolves announced a crowd of 19,356, their second straight sellout and third of the season. … Derrick Williams scored 10 points for the Wolves.
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