Timberwolves 111, Rockets 98
The All-Star forward scored 33 points, including eight straight during a key fourth-quarter stretch, to lead the Minnesota Timberwolves to a 111-98 victory over Houston.
Love was already unpopular in Houston after stepping on Luis Scola's face and chest after knocking him to the ground while driving to the basket in a Minnesota win on Feb. 4. He was suspended for two games but has scored at least 30 points in four of five since.
''Hopefully, they'll move past the stomp, know that I've learned from it and just start remembering me as a good player who beat them up in the fourth quarter,'' Love said about Rockets fans.
Nikola Pekovic added a career-high 30 points and had 12 rebounds to help the Timberwolves improve to 3-1 against Houston this season.
''We thought we had a big advantage before the game with Love and Pek inside,'' Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said. ''A lot of people haven't paid attention to Pek, but he's been doing this to everybody.''
A big run by Houston at the beginning of the fourth cut Minnesota's lead from 14 to one before Love took over. He scored eight points in a row, fueled by a pair of 3-pointers, to push Minnesota's lead to 103-94 with 3 minutes left. The Rockets never threatened again.
''I'm happy we won the season series and we're happy to be done with Houston,'' Love said.
Love also had 17 rebounds for his 27th double-double of the season, most in the NBA.
''They just beat us up, bottom line,'' Houston coach Kevin McHale said.
Adelman said before the game he didn't think there would be any carry-over and he was right - when it came to the players. The fans were a different story, with the crowd booing Love loudly during introductions and sporadically throughout the game.
When he was called for an offensive foul that knocked Scola to the ground in the third quarter, the crowd seemed confused, with some booing while others cheered.
Houston's offense got going in the fourth quarter and the Rockets went on a 17-4 run to cut the lead to 95-94 with 6 minutes remaining. Lee, Parsons and Lowry each had 3-pointers during that span while the Timberwolves where slowed by four turnovers.
Love's run came after that to seal the victory.
''We got within one,'' Lee said. ''We were right there. All we had to do was get a couple more stops.''
Ricky Rubio scored the first six points of the third quarter for the Timberwolves and Kevin Martin had a 3-pointer for Houston in that span to leave Minnesota ahead 67-57 with about 10 minutes left.
Rubio had 18 points and nine assists for the Timberwolves, but was unhappy with his six turnovers and apologized to Adelman after the game for not taking better care of the ball.
The Timberwolves led by nine later in the quarter before Houston used a 7-2 spurt to cut the lead to 74-68. Minnesota responded with an 8-0 run to extend its advantage to 82-68 with just under 4 minutes to go.
Minnesota led 91-77 entering the fourth quarter after Lowry's jump shot at the end of the third quarter.
The last two points in that run came on free throws by Love after Scola picked up his fifth foul and went to the bench. Limited after picking up his fifth foul, Scola finished with 10 points.
Houston led by two with about 4 minutes remaining in the second quarter before Minnesota used a 14-2 run to take a 59-49 lead. Pekovic got it going with five straight points and Rubio had a 3-pointer.
Love raved about the play of the 6-foot-11, 290-pound Pekovic.
''He is a rising star,'' Love said. ''He's been playing great this season for us and we are happy to have him. He's a guy that you put out there and he's going to get points, rebounds and draw fouls on the other team.''
A 3-pointer by Martin with 9 seconds left got Houston within 61-54 at halftime.
NOTES: Martin finished with 16 points after tying a season high with 32 in Houston's win over Oklahoma City on Wednesday. ... Pekovic's 12 rebounds were one off his career high.