Love leads Timberwolves over Hornets, 104-92
NEW ORLEANS – Kevin Love had 27 points and 17 rebounds, and the struggling Minnesota Timberwolves maintained their surprising dominance of the playoff-contending New Orleans Hornets with a 104-92 victory Monday night.
Minnesota's second double-digit win over New Orleans this season might have been a costly one, though. Michael Beasley, who had 14 points, had to be helped off the floor with a left leg injury in the fourth quarter and starting center Darko Milicic departed with a strained left hip flexor in the first.
The injuries meant more action for Nikola Pekovic and Anthony Tolliver, who each scored 12 points. Minnesota hit 11 3-pointers and made all 25 of its free throws in snapping a three-game skid and winning only its third road game this season.
Chris Paul had 17 points and 13 assists for the Hornets, who have lost three straight and five of six.
Love was 14 of 14 on free throws and had three of the Wolves' 11 offensive rebounds, helping Minnesota score 22 second-chance points.
Johnny Flynn had 13 points and Wayne Ellington 11 in his return from a two-game absence for personal reasons.
David West had 18 points for the Hornets. Marco Belinelli added 15 and Willie Green 11.
Minnesota led 65-46 after opening the second half with Pekovic's dunk and Corey Brewer's 3. The Hornets then went on a 14-2 run in which Paul scored six points to pull to 67-60, but the Wolves held firm and slowly regained momentum, going back up by 12 when Love's putback as he was fouled made it 76-64.
The Wolves opened the fourth quarter leading 82-70 and went on an 11-2 spurt capped by Beasley's dunk that gave them their largest lead, 93-72, with 7:50 to go.
New Orleans got not closer than 10 after that.
The Wolves, who beat the Hornets 113-98 in Minnesota in the only other meeting this season Dec. 27, once again seemed to match up well with New Orleans, which this time was missing starting center Emeka Okafor (left oblique) and starting small forward Trevor Ariza (right ankle).
Minnesota shot 50 percent (20 of 40) in the first half. Pekovic had eight first-half points and the Wolves led by as many as 16 when Tolliver made his fourth 3 of the second quarter before Paul's free throws made it 60-46 at halftime.
Notes: Hornets F-C Jason Smith returned after a one-game absence because of an illness but did not return to his recent role as a fill-in starter for Okafor. Smith had four points and five rebounds in 17 minutes. ... The Wolves were without G-F Martell Webster (back spasms), who missed his second straight game, and G Luke Ridnour (personal matters), who missed his fourth consecutive game. ... The Hornets fell to 20-7 at home. ... Minnesota snapped a five-game losing streak in New Orleans.