Timberwolves 91, Cavaliers 73

Kevin Love’s shooting stroke returned, and Andrei Kirilenko also

was back for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

The timing couldn’t have been worse for the reeling Cleveland

Cavaliers.

Love had 36 points and 13 rebounds and Kirilenko delivered

another solid all-around performance in the Timberwolves’ 91-73

victory over the Cavaliers on Friday night.

Love missed most of the first month of the season with a broken

right hand, and he’s been struggling to regain his shooting touch

since returning nine games ago. The release looked much more fluid

against the Cavs, and the trajectory was better as well. He made 10

of 19 shots and 14 of 18 free throws and is cautiously optimistic

that it’s all coming back to him now.

”Hopefully it’s not fool’s gold,” Love said. ”It’s a step in

the right direction. I’ve been putting in work, but it’s just one

game.”

Kirilenko had eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, four

steals and three blocks after missing four games with back spasms

and Luke Ridnour added 12 points, seven assists and five rebounds

for the Timberwolves, who improved to 9-9 in their best start since

the 2006-07 season.

Alonzo Gee scored 16 points and Anderson Varejao grabbed 14

rebounds for the Cavaliers, who have lost four in a row and eight

of their last nine while star guard Kyrie Irving has been out with

a broken left index finger.

The Cavs turned the ball over 20 times, which led to 32

Minnesota points, shot 34.5 percent and attempted just nine free

throws to Minnesota’s 35.

”I’m trying to figure out a way to say this without getting

fined,” coach Byron Scott said of the officiating. ”It was that

bad. It really was. It was that bad. I mean I understand we’re

playing in Minnesota, but 35-9, we went to the basket just as much

as they did. I think we had 38 attempts in the paint to their 34,

we get nine free throws, I think that speaks for itself.”

It wasn’t a pretty game offensively for either team, aside from

Love’s shooting. He entered the night hitting just 19.6 percent of

his 3s and 36 percent overall while still trying to get the feeling

in his hand back to normal.

”I know I haven’t been the 25 (points) and 10 (rebounds) guy

that I usually am. … I haven’t been quite putting up the numbers

and helping the team as much as I can,” Love said at the

shootaround on Friday morning.

While Love was terrific in the matchup of two of the game’s best

rebounders, Varejao managed just four points on 2-for-10 shooting

and lost a streak of 10 straight games with at least 15 boards.

C.J. Miles scored 13 points for Cleveland.

Both teams were missing their playmaking point guards, and it

showed in the disjointed mess that was the offense on both sides of

the court. Irving missed his 10th straight game and Dion Waiters

was out again with a sprained left ankle, robbing the Cavaliers of

one of the promising young backcourts in the league.

Once again, the Cavs struggled to create space for easy jumpers,

turned the ball over 18 times and really were relegated to hoping

for a dunk from Gee on offense. Gee threw down a soaring jam and

then knifed through the lane for another two-hander that cut

Minnesota’s lead to nine points late in the third quarter. He made

seven of his 12 shots, but his teammates shot just 30 percent.

Miles’ dunk pulled the Cavs to within seven in the fourth, but

Minnesota closed the game on a 19-8 surge.

”He’s definitely a luxury when you’ve got a guy that does what

he does, who can break his guy down at any point in time,” Miles

said of Irving. ”That’s definitely a luxury, but we did a good

job, guys are stepping up. We’ve been in every game to a certain

extent, I think we’ve just got to figure out how to close games,

how to win games.”

NOTES: Varejao did limit Wolves C Nikola Pekovic to four points

and one rebound on 0-for-3 shooting. … Cavaliers rookie Kevin

Jones made his NBA debut. He had two points and four rebounds in

eight minutes. … Former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams did

not play again for the Wolves, with coach Rick Adelman preferring

to give the bulk of the minutes to Love, Dante Cunningham and Greg

Stiemsma up front.