Timberwolves-Jazz Preview

Kevin Love has been on a torrid run in March and the Minnesota

Timberwolves will need of more of that from him as they press on

without Ricky Rubio.

Love and the Timberwolves continue a seven-game road trip

Thursday night against the Utah Jazz.

With Rubio out for the season with a torn ACL, Minnesota’s

chances of making the playoffs rest primarily on keeping Love

healthy and productive.

While Love missed last Friday’s game against the Los Angeles

Lakers with back problems, he continued his hot stretch during the

next two games. Love scored 31 points in Sunday’s loss to New

Orleans – the team’s first without Rubio – and had 30 in a 127-124

win over Phoenix on Monday.

The Suns were ahead by five with 6:10 remaining, but Love scored

13 points in the fourth quarter while going 3 of 5 from 3-point

range to help Minnesota (22-21) win the opener of its longest road

trip of the season.

“The biggest thing for me is I didn’t get a good warm up,” said

Love, who set a franchise mark with his 15th 30-point game of the

season. “I had good looks in the first half but the ball never

really felt right in my hand. I decided to get my legs under me in

the second half and that was the biggest difference.”

Love is leading the NBA with 32.3 points in six games this month

– up from his season average of 25.7 points.

However, Love has been held below his scoring and rebounding

averages in both meetings with Utah this season. He had 15 points

and eight boards in a 108-98 loss in Salt Lake City on Jan. 21 and

scored a season low-tying 10 with 10 rebounds in a 100-98 win at

home Feb. 22.

Despite Rubio’s absence, Minnesota scored its most points of the

season in its last game. That may not be good news for the Jazz

(20-22), who are coming off a poor defensive effort in a 120-111

loss at Phoenix on Wednesday.

Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson each scored 18 points, but Utah

couldn’t slow the Suns, who shot 56.4 percent overall and hit nine

3-pointers.

“We couldn’t get over the hump,” coach Tyrone Corbin said. ”We

didn’t get the break we needed, but we have another one

tomorrow.”

The Jazz have lost three of four, but will play their next two

at home, where they have won three straight and are 15-6.

While Utah has allowed at least 104 points in its last three

road losses, the Jazz are giving up 93.9 points at home this

season, including 90.3 in the last three contests there.

Minnesota has struggled to contain Utah’s frontcourt. Millsap

has averaged 25.5 points and 9.0 rebounds while Jefferson has added

18.0 points and 11.5 rebounds per game in two meetings this

season.

The Jazz have won four straight at home against the

Timberwolves.