Big numbers give Wolves a big victory over Cavs

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 8, 2012 - 9:42 AM

He found his shot, got to the line and dominated his inside matchup.

Timberwolves two-time All-Star Kevin Love seemingly accomplished so much during Friday's 91-73 victory over Cleveland at Target Center.

He helped hold rival rebounding fiend Anderson Varejao to a mere 14 of them.

"I mean, that's two under his season average," he said, exaggerating the facts ever so slightly.

He finally made his free throws.

"Well, most of them," he said after shooting twice as many as the opposition did all night.

And if he allowed himself just a bit of optimism late Friday, one might say he'd almost come around to feeling like his old self.

While the Wolves continue to wait for Ricky Rubio's return from March knee surgery, Love's 36-point, 13-rebound performance just might be the comeback for which he and his team have been waiting.

Maybe ...

"It's one game," he said afterward. "Hopefully, it's not fool's gold."

His 36 points surpassed by a bucket his season scoring high set the night he made his sudden, surprise season debut against Denver more than two weeks ago.

And two nights after he lamented how his healing broken hand inhibits his shooting touch, Love made shots than he missed for the first time in nine games back this season.

He made 10 of 19 shots and got to the free-throw line 18 times, making 14. The Wolves shot 35 free throws to the Cavs' nine.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "I've been putting in work, but it's just one game. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself. It might take me 15 or 20 games to get me back to where I want to be."

His eighth double-double in his ninth game back helped the Wolves persevere on a night when both teams combined for 39 turnovers while each played without its young, blossoming starting point guard.

When the two teams meet again for the final time this season in February, Rubio and Kyrie Irving both will be well along in their recovery from injury, and that rematch in Cleveland just might rack up the style points that Friday's game so badly lacked.

"It was a win we really needed," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said after his team reached .500 with a 9-9 record. "We gutted it out."

The Wolves led 12-2 and 27-18, then allowed Cleveland to tie the score late in the first half before they put the visitors away.

Love himself got to the free-throw line twice as many as times as the entire Cavaliers team, a statistical oddity that left Cleveland coach Byron Scott carefully groping for just the right words.

"I am trying to figure out a way to say this without getting fined," he said. "It was that bad. It really was."

The Wolves welcomed starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko back Friday after four games away because of back spasms, and he delivered eight points, seven rebounds and six assists in 31 minutes, looking like he had never been away.

His return to good health meant that second-year forward Derrick Williams once again didn't get off the bench. It also meant that the Wolves had back the defensive specialist who helped them hold the Cavaliers to 34.5-percent shooting.

Both that and the point total were season lows by a Wolves opponent.

"He's just so active. He does so many energy plays for us," Adelman said. "We have to have that energy."

  • WOLVES 91, CLEVELAND 73

    Up next: 7 p.m. Wednesday vs. Denver Target Center • TV: FSN (830-AM)

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