Timberwolves-Cavaliers Preview

Impressive first-quarter scoring is a key reason why the

Minnesota Timberwolves are off to their best start in 12 years.

Kevin Love is another.

Love and the Timberwolves look to get off to another strong

start as they go for a fourth straight win Monday night against the

Cleveland Cavaliers.

Minnesota (3-0) is off to its best start since winning the first

six games of 2001-02, and another productive first quarter could

help move them closer to that franchise record.

The Timberwolves are averaging a league-best 37.3 points while

hitting 55.2 percent from the floor – 8 of 16 from beyond the arc –

in the opening quarter through the first three games. They got off

to their best start yet Sunday, sinking 14 of 21 field goals to

score 40 points in the opening period of a 109-100 victory at New

York.

“This is such a fun team to play on,” said guard Kevin Martin,

who had a season-high 30 points while making all five 3-pointers.

“Nobody is trying to lead the league in scoring here. Everybody has

the big picture of getting to the playoffs.”

A healthy Love would surely help after he was limited to 18

games last season due to various injuries, including a twice-broken

right hand.

The All-Star forward seems to have put those injuries behind

him, averaging 29.7 points and 14.7 rebounds while making 50.0

percent from the floor – 8 for 21 from 3-point range – this

season.

He had a season-high 34 points, 15 boards and five assists

against the Knicks.

“We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves because of the

injuries,” Love said. “So don’t want to live in the past, don’t

want to live too far in the future, we just want to try to plan for

Cleveland.”

Love had 36 points and 13 rebounds in a 91-73 home win over the

Cavaliers on Dec. 7. Minnesota completed the season sweep without

him Feb. 11, winning 100-92 at Cleveland behind Ricky Rubio’s 13

points, 10 assists and five steals.

The point guard, though, is coming off his worst performance of

the season, making 3 of 11 from the field to finish with eight

points and 10 assists.

The Cavaliers (1-2) hope to avoid a third straight loss after a

season-opening 98-94 home win over Brooklyn.

They turned in their worst offensive performance of the season

Saturday, shooting 34.9 percent from the floor – including 3 of 15

from long range – in an 89-74 loss at Indiana.

Still, coach Mike Brown came away feeling positive.

“As crazy as this sounds, I thought (Saturday) was our best

offensive night, from the standpoint that the ball moved and bodies

moved,” he said. “Just watching the game, I thought we tried to

play with some flow.

“I thought we tried to move the basketball. We had weak-side

shots open. We had more of those than any other time.”

Like the Cavs, Kyrie Irving is off to a slow start, averaging

15.3 points and 7.0 assists. The point guard averaged 22.5 points

and 5.9 assists last season, and was a first-time All-Star.

Irving had 20 points and seven assists against the Timberwolves

on Feb. 11, while Dion Waiters made all six of his shots to finish

with 12 points.

Minnesota has won four of five against Cleveland after a

nine-game losing streak in the series.