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Kevin Love (42) moves with the ball near the basket against Indiana's Ian Mahinmi.

R Brent Smith, Associated Press

LeBron James lingered on the rim after dunking on the Wolves last year. The Heat is trying to avoid a three-game skid.

File photo by JEFF WHEELER ‘ • jeff.wheeler@startribune.com,

MIAMI AT WOLVES

7 p.m. Saturday • Target Center • TV: FSN (830-AM)

Wolves have to handle Heat on Saturday without Love

  • Article by: Kent Youngblood
  • Star Tribune
  • December 7, 2013 - 12:57 PM

The Wolves have had five days off between games, but the break included thousands of miles of travel to play in a game that never happened. They returned to practice Friday but were missing Kevin Love and coach Rick Adelman. Saturday they play host to two-time defending champion Miami, a formidable team looking to avoid its first three-game losing streak in nearly two years.

Just another crazy week for the Wolves, whose game with San Antonio on Wednesday in Mexico City was postponed by smoke in the arena. Their best player was home with family Friday following his grandmother’s death, and their head coach was away getting ready to become a grandfather again; his son David — himself a Wolves assistant — and his wife, Jenny, were expecting their first child.

“That’s all you can say, crazy,” said forward Corey Brewer.

Assistant Terry Porter, who ran Friday’s practice, said Love likely would not return in time for Saturday’s game. Shortly after practice the team announced Love out. Porter wouldn’t say who would start in Love’s place — leaving that decision to Adelman — but it could be Dante Cunningham.

Cunningham and Luc Mbah a Moute — both defensive specialists — figure to get a lot of time defending Miami star LeBron James, who enters the game third in the league in scoring (25.7), shooting better than 58 percent from the field and nearly 46 percent on three-pointers.

The Wolves will need to be rested. After this break the team will play eight games in 14 nights starting Saturday, a stretch that includes two back-to-backs.

The Wolves, losers of four of five games overall and two of their past three at Target Center, would like to kick that streak off with a home victory. But it will be difficult against the Heat without Love in the lineup.

In a year when the Western Conference has been overwhelmingly better than the East — only three teams in the Eastern Conference have winning records — Indiana and Miami have been the exception to the rule.

Even with Dwyane Wade missing some games because of knee soreness — and Thursday’s loss in Chicago with an illness — Miami is 14-5 overall and 5-3 on the road.

And it all starts with James.

“He’s so strong and fast,” Brewer said. “You’ve just got to make him work for everything he gets. You have to make him take jump shots. You don’t want him getting to the rim.”

But even so, James has been hard to stop.

“He doesn’t force the game,” said Mbah a Moute. “He lets the game come to him. I think he’s shooting something crazy, he’s just being patient with his game, not trying to force it. When you have a great player doing that, he’s tough to guard.”

The good news is that the Wolves, at the very least, have had time to rest their legs after a hectic November.

But that doesn’t make the events in Mexico City any less strange.

“We feel bad, because we felt the energy from the fans,” Ricky Rubio said. “I didn’t realize what had happened. I was in the locker room, and then suddenly they say we have to get out on the busses. I’m thinking it was something they did before the game just to get everybody ready. But it wasn’t. It was kind of sad.”

But, as a result, the Wolves are at least a bit rested.

“You can say it gave us a little chance to catch our breath and get our legs,” Porter said. “But it doesn’t stop. Tomorrow, and then we go right back into a situation where we have a lot of games in a short period of time.’’

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