NBA Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, March 12th (All times eastern)
Minnesota Timberwolves (21-21) at Phoenix Suns (19-21), 10 p.m.
(Sports Network) - The Minnesota Timberwolves will try to shake off the season-ending injury to Ricky Rubio and get back in the win column when they open up a seven-game road trip in the desert against the Phoenix Suns.
The Timberwolves played their first game without Rubio, the rookie sensation that tore the ACL in his left knee late in Friday's loss to the Lakers, on Saturday and fell to the lowly Hornets, 95-89, at Target Center.
Kevin Love paced Minnesota with 31 points and 16 rebounds, while fellow big man Nikola Pekovic recorded a double-double as well with 21 points and 11 boards. Luke Ridnour scored 14 points and handed out 10 assists in place of the injured Rubio, but Minnesota dropped its second straight contest.
The 21-year-old Rubio was averaging 10.6 points, 8.2 assists and was third in the league with 2.2 steals per game. Minnesota, which is one game behind Houston for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot, will now be hard-pressed to make a postseason run.
"We definitely lost a little swagger without Rubio out there," remarked Martell Webster, who will see increased minutes with Rubio sidelined. "The way he moves the ball, he changes the pace of the game for us. The guys we have are who we have to go with, so we've got to find a way to come together for the rest of the season."
The Timberwolves have also been without backup guard J.J. Barea, who is expected to miss his third straight contest tonight with a sprained left ankle.
Minnesota, which is 9-9 as the visitor this year, will also face Utah, the LA Lakers, Sacramento, Golden State, San Antonio and Oklahoma City on its long trip.
The Suns, meanwhile, have been hot recently, moving to 2-0 on a four-game homestand on Saturday with a 98-91 win over a Memphis team that had won five straight.
Jared Dudley scored 19 points in that one while Marcin Gortat added 15 points and nine rebounds, Grant Hill scored 14 and Steve Nash had 11 and 15 assists for the Suns, who have won five straight at home and seven of nine overall.
"That one felt good. We beat a really good team that is probably playing as well as anyone in the league right now," said Suns coach Alvin Gentry.
Phoenix, which is 12-9 at home, will finish its current residency against Utah on Wednesday.
The Wolves have dropped nine straight to the Suns, including a 104-95 loss in the desert on March 1, a game that started Phoenix's current run as the host.
03/12 10:43:18 ET