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The Minnesota Timberwolves have their work cut out if they're going to climb into the Western Conference playoff picture.

Doing so could prove all the more difficult with two of their top scorers still out.

Minnesota will again be without Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Martin as it opens the second half of the season Wednesday night against the East-leading Indiana Pacers.

Sitting a handful of games out of the West's eighth and final playoff berth, the Timberwolves (25-28) know they need to come out with a sense of urgency if they want to make the postseason for the first time since 2003-04.

"It's going to be hard, but we've got a chance," point guard J.J. Barea said. "If we're going to make a run, it's got to be right when we get back."

The Timberwolves were hoping Pekovic might be able to return after six days off, but he is expected to miss a 10th consecutive game due to bursitis in his right ankle. Martin remains sidelined with a broken left thumb.

"I'm not surprised (by Pekovic)," coach Rick Adelman told the Timberwolves' official website. "They are hoping to get more activity over the next few days and see what happens. Like I said before, he's got to get on the court and practice some, not only the injury but the conditioning."

Martin and Pekovic are averaging 19.0 and 18.0 points to rank second and third on the team.

"There's still a chance for a nice push. We just have to go out there and we have to take it. Hopefully that will be the case," said Kevin Love, who scored 13 points in Sunday's All-Star game. "We just need to be together. Hopefully that will push us over the top."

The Timberwolves are 1-4 in their last five against the Pacers after falling 98-84 at Indiana on Nov. 25. Love had 20 points and 17 rebounds while shooting 6 of 20 as Minnesota was held to 32.6 percent from the floor, its second-lowest mark this season.

The Pacers (41-12) opened the season's second half with Tuesday's 108-98 victory over Atlanta. Paul George led the way with 26 points as Indiana scored 35 off the Hawks' 22 turnovers.

"We want to peak towards the end of the season and we're on our way," All-Star center Roy Hibbert said. "The last 20 games, we want to play our best ball."

Indiana jumped out to a 31-9 lead in the first quarter before allowing the Hawks to slowly creep back into it.

"We have to be able to get off to good starts," George said. "We have got to understand that teams are going to rally back, but I thought they made the game closer than it needed to be when we had a good lead."

The Timberwolves snapped a season-worst four-game skid in their final game before the All-Star break, beating Denver 117-90 last Wednesday. Love had 32 points, 11 boards and eight assists while Corey Brewer scored 22.

"We needed a game like that after having a tough stretch," said Ricky Rubio, who added 11 points, 12 assists and a season-best seven steals.

The Pacers are 6-7 over their last 13 on the road after opening 9-2.

Tagged: Pacers, Timberwolves, Kevin Martin, Kevin Love, Nikola Pekovic

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