MINNEAPOLIS – Kevin Love landed hard on his hip after a foul late in the game. His head snapped back from the impact and hit the floor.
The All-Star power forward was alright afterward, a relief for the Minnesota Timberwolves. The win over the languishing Los Angeles Lakers was nice, too.
Love had 31 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Timberwolves to a 109-99 victory on Tuesday that spoiled Steve Nash’s return and stuck the Lakers with their seventh straight defeat.
“I just want to continue to keep playing and give this team all that I can,” Love said. “Yeah, I’ve taken a physical beating, but you’ve got to expect being one of the top guys that they’re going to come at you.”
The Lakers’ reserves had a whopping 70 points, with Nick Young (24 points), Manny Harris (19 points) and former Timberwolves first-round draft pick Wes Johnson (15 points and nine rebounds) leading the way. But Los Angeles still lost for the 19th time in its last 22 games and fell into a tie for last place in the Western Conference with Utah and Sacramento.
Kevin Martin helped the Timberwolves get off to a fast start, scoring 14 of his season-high-tying 32 points in the opening 10 minutes as the NBA’s highest-scoring first-quarter team surged to a 25-point lead midway through the second period. They stumbled some after halftime, letting the Lakers pull within seven points early in the fourth quarter.
“It’s just one of those things where the game isn’t going to be as easy as you think,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “You just have to persevere.”
Nash had been sidelined since Nov. 10 because of nerve problems in his back. The soon-to-be-40-year-old two-time league MVP had seven points and nine assists in 25 minutes, about 10 more than he was supposed to play.
Bulls 101, Suns 92
In Phoenix, Carlos Boozer had 19 points and 12 rebounds and Chicago snapped the Suns’ five-game winning streak.
Jimmy Butler and D.J. Augustin had 18 points apiece for the Bulls, who won for the fifth straight time in Phoenix.
Joakim Noah, who was ejected in the third quarter of the loss at Sacramento, had 14 points and 14 rebounds.
Goran Dragic led Phoenix with 24 points. Channing Frye had 18.
Pacers 89, Hawks 85
In Atlanta, David West scored 22 points and Paul George added 18, helping NBA-leading Indiana get the win.
The Pacers snapped a 12-game regular-season losing streak in Atlanta while improving the league’s best record to 38-10.
The Hawks failed to place a starter in double figures. They had won two straight and five of seven. Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver had nine points apiece for the Hawks, but All-Star forward Paul Millsap went 2-for-11 from the field and finished with seven points.
Bobcats 91, Warriors 75
In Oakland, Al Jefferson had 30 points and 13 rebounds, Gerald Henderson added 17 points and eight rebounds and Charlotte blew past the Warriors in Kemba Walker’s much-anticipated return.
Walker finished with seven points, seven assists and six rebounds after missing the last seven games with a sprained left ankle. He played 33 minutes.
The Bobcats controlled the game from the start, going ahead by 18 points late in the third quarter and 22 midway through the fourth. Charlotte, which shot 47.4 percent, held the Warriors to a season-low 31.2 percent shooting.
Golden State’s Stephen Curry had 17 points and 11 assists against his hometown team.