Love misses game because of flu, not thumb

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 12:08 AM

The Wolves forward was a late scratch.

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New Orleans Hornets center Robin Lopez (15) blocks a shot by Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (42) in the first half of an NBA basketball game in New Orleans, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Photo: Gerald Herbert,

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Kevin Love wasn't able to take part in Ricky Rubio's return to action Saturday at Target Center. But it's not for the reason you might think.

It wasn't the sore right thumb Love injured in the waning moments of the Wolves' victory in New Orleans on Friday night. He was held out because of flulike symptoms. Love arrived at Target Center about 5:30 Saturday night looking well under the weather.

Dante Cunningham started in Love's place.

In a sense, that has to be good news for fans who held their collective breath after watching Love leave the court after injuring himself trying to stop Austin Rivers' layup. Love left the court holding his hand at an awkward angle.

So the news on the thumb is good: Love was listed as probable for the game before coming up sick.

Love missed the first nine games of the season because of two broken bones in his right hand sustained while doing knuckle pushups at his home. Love had struggled with his shot as his hand healed; he had made just seven of 35 shots in the past two games, including going 4-for-18 on Friday night.

It's unclear how the addition of a sore thumb will further affect his shot in the short term.

Injuries, part II

Meanwhile, guard Malcolm Lee missed his second game because of a chrondal injury in his right knee. Lee is planning on going to New York to visit two specialists next week to determine the best route of treatment. Surgery remains an option.

"I'm trying to avoid all of that," said Lee, who had been starting and seeing extensive minutes with Rubio on the mend. "If I can do it without surgery, I will take that route."

It is a frustrating time for Lee, who had to deal with surgery on his other knee a season ago. Especially when he was getting significant playing time.

"It's natural to get a little frustrating," said Lee, who is getting treatment to reduce the swelling in the knee. "But I can't really control the things that happen. You have to put it out of your mind and stay positive."

Forward Josh Howard, who hyper-extended his knee Friday, did not play Saturday and is listed as day-to-day.

Franchise record

Friday's victory brought with it this impressive stat: The Wolves out-scored the Hornets 70-42 in the paint. That 70 points is the most in a single game by the Wolves since the stat started being kept in 1996.

A huge part of that was because of the play of center Nikola Pekovic, who had a career-high 31 points against the Hornets, on 14-for-18 shooting. Pekovic, whose ankle is finally starting to feel good, and the way he ran the floor Friday proved it.

The Wolves entered Saturday's game tied for 10th in the league, averaging 44.26 points per game in the paint. But in the four games leading up to Saturday, that number was 52.5. Andrei Kirilenko, also gives the credit to Pekovic.

"In my opinion, don't get me wrong, I think he's the best of the big men in the West right now," Kirilenko said of Pekovic, who scored 52 points in the two games prior to Saturday. "He's dominating on the inside. A pure big man being a great presence in the middle, making free throws. It's a key point for the big man. If they foul you, you punish."

After a slow start in which he missed some shots from close range Saturday, Pekovic finished strong and ended up with 21 points (on 10-for-21 shooting) and nine rebounds.

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