|Minnesota Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio (9) passes the ball in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the New Orleans Hornets in New Orleans, Friday, Jan. 13, 2012. (AP Photo/Bill Haber)|
Wolves beat Hornets in Rubio's first start
Rubio finished with 12 points and nine assists. Love had 17 points in the third quarter and also grabbed 15 rebounds for his 11th consecutive double-double. The Timberwolves finished 33 of 38 from the foul line and Love sank his first 17 before missing one in the last minute.
Marco Belinelli scored a season-high 20 points for the Hornets, who rallied from a 14-point deficit to the tie the score three times in the fourth quarter before losing for the eighth time in nine games and their fifth in a row at home. Emeka Okafor contributed 16 points and 14 rebounds. Jarrett Jack had eight points and nine assists.
New Orleans pulled into its final tie at 78 on a 3-pointer by Belinelli with a little more than 2 minutes left, seconds after Hornets rookie Gustavo Ayon blocked a layup attempt by Wayne Ellington. As the Timberwolves screamed for goaltending, Belinelli set up behind the arc, and Jack found him for the open shot.
Rubio responded with two free throws to put Minnesota ahead 82-80. After Ayon missed a running bank shot, Rubio hit two more foul shots. Love finished off the Hornets by sinking two free throws and grabbing an air ball from Belinelli with 29 seconds left.
Minnesota's big run started when the Timberwolves scored the last five points of the first half. Luke Ridnour sank a long-range 3-pointer with 1.4 seconds left to close the gap to 38-37.
Love scored on Minnesota's first three possessions of the second half, breaking out of a slump in which he had hit on 8 of 40 shots in his last 10 quarters. He extended the Timberwolves' advantage to 63-49 with a basket near the end of third quarter.
Belinelli hit two 3-pointers and Ayon scored five points -- surpassing his season high -- as the Hornets came back in the fourth.
The struggling teams matched each other missed shot for missed shot in an ugly first half. Minnesota went 12 of 37 from the field (32 percent), while New Orleans hit 17 of 45 (38 percent), taking a 38-37 lead.
New Orleans guard Greivis Vasquez floated the ball about a foot past the rim on a runner from the side. Ridnour hit the side of the backboard with a bad-angle attempt from the baseline, drawing a lingering grimace from coach Rick Adelman.
Love sank just one of his six attempts. The Hornets' Chris Kaman went 0 for 7 on his way to an 0-for-10 night.
The Timberwolves were fortunate to be down only five at the end of the first quarter. They committed seven turnovers, leading to 13 Hornets fast-break points in the first 7:30, one below their season high for a game. Other than Wes Johnson, no Minnesota player hit a shot from the field in the first nine minutes.
Notes: The Hornets and Timberwolves each had two key contributors unavailable with injury. For New Orleans, guard Eric Gordon missed his fifth consecutive game with a sore knee, and forward Trevor Ariza missed his sixth game in a row with a strained groin. For Minnesota, second-leading scorer Michael Beasley sat out his fourth consecutive game because of a sprained right foot, and reserve guard J.J. Barea (11.4 ppg.) missed his second game in a row with a sprained right ankle. . The Hornets have not scored 100 points through 11 games, and only one of their opponents, Philadelphia (101), reached 100. After going 1 of 16 on 3-pointers against Oklahoma City on Wednesday, the Hornets missed their first seven vs. Minnesota before Vasquez made one.