Davis scores 28, leads Magic to win over Wolves

Published 6:44 am Tuesday, December 18, 2012

ORLANDO — It might be a good time for Timberwolves fans to show some patience.

The Wolves’ franchise players, Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, are far from their expected performance levels and getting there could take awhile.

Orlando’s 102-93 victory over the Wolves on Monday night, Dec. 17, at Amway Center left Rubio in a somber mood and Love wondering when he’ll rediscover the rhythm in his game that has made him one of the NBA’s top power forwards.

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“I empathize with Ricky,” Love said. “It’s tough coming back from an injury. I’m just like him. It’s taking me a long time and I’m still not where I should be. It will take Ricky a little bit of time, too.”

After the Wolves (12-10) failed to extend their winning streak to five, a dejected Rubio admitted he didn’t “feel as good” as he did in his euphoric debut Saturday night against Dallas at Target Center. Rubio also confided that he felt “slow” in his second game back from major knee surgery.

The numbers seem to support Rubio’s observations: no points on 0-for-3 shooting, no free-throw attempts, three turnovers, four assists and one steal in 16 minutes. Rubio fell far short of matching his output and drama of Saturday night — when he had eight points, nine assists and three steals — and it was tough for him to talk about it.

“Today was harder,” he said. “I didn’t feel like the first game. I didn’t feel good at all today. I have to break through these issues. It’s been nine months for me without playing.”

Rubio did not express concern about his left knee, which is probably the one positive the second-year guard can take from Monday’s loss. But his lack of production and energy support the objective of the Wolves’ medical staff to keep Rubio out of the second of back-to-back games until he makes significant progress with his conditioning and mobility.

As fatigued as Rubio appeared after Monday’s loss, it’s probably a good thing he won’t play Tuesday night against Miami at American Airlines Arena.

“He just has to relax,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “He’s playing limited minutes. I think he’s trying a little too hard. It’ll come.”

Rubio did not play in the final eight minutes. To Adelman, it wasn’t necessary. Orlando had regrouped after trailing by 15 in the third quarter and was cruising to an easy win. The Magic outscored the Wolves 49-25 after the midway point of the third quarter.

The Wolves’ sluggish third quarter — in which they shot 8 for 26 and committed five turnovers — allowed the Magic to turn the game around. Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko shot a combined 0 for 7 in the quarter. Nikola Pekovic was 2 for 6 and Love was 2 for 8. After shooting 49 percent in the first half, the Wolves made only 15 of 47 shots in the second.

“In the second half, all of us were a little worn down,” Love said.

At one point in the third quarter, Love had to excuse himself to make a dash to the locker room. He has been dealing with flu-like symptoms since Saturday but said he felt good enough to play Monday.

Love had a solid game with 23 points and 15 rebounds.

By his standards, however, he is not playing to the level that earned him a spot on the Western Conference all-star roster the past two years.

Love’s broken hand, which caused him to miss the first nine games of the season, and two bouts with flu-like symptoms, have slowed his conditioning and production.

More concerning is the fact that Love talked about suffering another injury Monday night. He said he slightly hyperextended his right shoulder after his arm got locked with Orlando’s burly Glen Davis while Kirilenko was trying to set a screen.

“I guess I should start expecting something every game,” Love moaned about his injury troubles.

Love and Rubio probably won’t be in a good mood until they’re completely healthy. Until then, the Wolves will have to keep functioning without major input from their franchise players.