Timberwolves-Grizzlies Preview

The Minnesota Timberwolves are undoubtedly a stronger team with

Kevin Love in the lineup, but for one game, they came out on top

without their All-Star forward.

The Timberwolves get another chance to prove they’re far from a

one-man team.

With Love finishing his two-game suspension, the visiting

Timberwolves will try to win four in a row for the first time in

two seasons on Wednesday night when the struggling Memphis

Grizzlies go for a sixth consecutive victory in this series.

Love, the team leader with 25.0 points per game and 13.7

rebounds, missed Tuesday’s 86-84 victory over Sacramento after

being suspended two games for stepping on Houston’s Luis Scola

during the third quarter of Saturday’s 100-91 win.

Without Love, the Timberwolves (13-12) received big

contributions up front. Center Nikola Pekovic had 23 points,

Michael Beasley added 17 and rookie Derrick Williams – making his

third start – scored half of his 14 in the final four minutes. That

trio combined for 32 of the team’s 49 rebounds.

“I think (playing without Love) builds character and it builds a

winning attitude,” Beasley said. “Especially go up over .500 (for

the first time this season), that’s real important for us.”

Minnesota last won four in a row from Jan. 29-Feb. 6, 2010. That

run was capped off by a 109-102 victory over the Grizzlies – the

Timberwolves’ last win in this series.

Minnesota also will go for its first 4-0 run away from home

since Jan. 3-19, 2009.

Memphis (12-13) will try to extend its winning streak in this

series following a 90-86 victory in Minneapolis on Jan. 4.

Tony Allen scored a team-high 20 points for the Grizzlies in

that contest, but he could miss a third consecutive game with a

sore hip and knee.

That could be a big loss as coach Lionel Hollins is trying to

better manage his players’ minutes during this condensed 66-game

schedule. Rudy Gay (45), center Marc Gasol (42) and Mike Conley

(41) all logged heavy minutes in Monday’s 89-84 home loss to San

Antonio.

Memphis scored 11 fourth-quarter points – a season low for any

period – after a 25-6 run to end the third.

“It was tough,” Gay said after the team lost its third straight

to open a season-high five-game homestand. “A couple of guys were

fatigued from playing a lot of heavy minutes.”

Conley will need all the energy he can muster with rookie point

guard Ricky Rubio averaging 11.8 points, 9.9 assists and 3.0 steals

since coach Rick Adelman inserted him into the starting five 15

games ago.

Rubio’s five steals on Tuesday vaulted him ahead of Conley for

first in the NBA with 2.44 per game. The Spanish point guard had 12

points, 10 assists and two steals on Jan. 4.

Conley scored 12 points with eight assists and three steals.

Love will miss a second consecutive game in Memphis. He was

sidelined with a strained left groin in a 106-89 loss at FedExForum

on April 2.

The Grizzlies have won four straight at home over Minnesota and

eight of nine overall in this series.