By Jon Krawczynski
AP Pro Basketball Writer
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love had 30 points and 14 rebounds to finally carry the Minnesota Timberwolves over the .500 mark with an 88-77 victory against the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Kevin Martin added 18 points on 7-of-18 shooting and six boards for the Timberwolves (23-22) in their first game without center Nikola Pekovic, who is expected to miss at least a week with bursitis in his right ankle. They still managed to get over .500 after failing in their previous 10 chances to do so.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 18 points and 12 rebounds for the Pelicans, who were missing star forward Anthony Davis with a dislocated left index finger. They shot just 35 percent and managed a season-low 35 points in the first half to snap a three-game winning streak.
Davis was injured in the victory over the Cavaliers on Tuesday night, but coach Monty Williams said he was playing it safe with his franchise player and expected him to return on Saturday against Chicago.
In an ugly game for both teams, the Pelicans managed to hang around and trailed by just five heading into the fourth. But Love, who played the entire second half, scored six straight points during an 8-0 burst to open the quarter and help the Wolves win for the fifth time in six games.
Both teams looked lost without their lynch pins in the paint in the first half. The Pelicans, who also are missing Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, hovered around 25 percent shooting for most of the first quarter and were still at 30 percent late into the third quarter against a Wolves defense that has been among the worst in the league from a field goal percentage basis.
Without Pekovic commanding double teams and bulling his way to the basket, the Wolves have had to focus more on the defensive end.
That left Love to go to work on the offensive end, and he was more aggressive looking for his shot than he has been with the big fella next to him in the frontcourt. In his first game at home since he was voted in as an All-Star starter for the Western Conference, Love came out firing, taking nine shots and attacking the glass. And when point guard Ricky Rubio went to the bench early in the third quarter with four fouls, Love started distributing more, picking up five assists to help the Wolves push back against the plucky Pelicans.
NOTES: Eric Gordon scored 14 on 5 for 17 shooting for New Orleans. ... Before the game started, Love grabbed the mic and thanked the Wolves fans for voting him as a starter in the All-Star game. He posted his NBA-leading 27th game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. ... Greg Stiemsma started in place of Davis and finished with three points and 12 rebounds and has grabbed at least 10 boards in two straight games.