Originally posted on Fox Sports North  |  Last updated 1/7/13
Losing Kevin Love to injury leaves a huge hole in the Minnesota Timberwolves' lineup, but coach Rick Adelman can't afford for his team to wait for the All-Star forward to return. Now, it's uncertain when Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic will be back. Point guard Ricky Rubio, though, is expected to return from his injury on Tuesday night when the host Timberwolves try to end an 11-game losing streak to the Atlanta Hawks. After missing the first three weeks of the season with a broken right hand, Love re-fractured that hand in Thursday's 101-97 victory at Denver. Love -- averaging 18.3 points and 14.0 rebounds -- will visit a hand specialist in New York City this week, and the Timberwolves (15-14) will learn if he'll need surgery. "The league doesn't stop for you, there's nobody coming over the mountain for us, it's who we've got right now," Adelman said after Saturday's 102-97 home loss to Portland. "And that's what we have to do, and everybody has to step up." Without Love, Pekovic -- along with Dante Cunningham and Derrick Williams -- becomes an even more critical part to the Timberwolves' inside game. However, the third-year center, who is averaging career highs with 15.9 points and 8.3 boards, left Saturday's game in the third quarter with a left hip strain. Pekovic did not practice Monday and is day-to-day. Rubio, though, went through that workout and is expected to return for the first time in five games. The Spanish point guard has been battling back spasms that Adelman said could be the result of overcompensating for a knee injury that caused him to miss the first 20 games this season and the final 25 of 2011-12. The Timberwolves, who open a four-game trip on Wednesday against Oklahoma City, will try to build some momentum for that stretch with their first victory over Atlanta since an 84-83 home win on April 9, 2006. While the Hawks (20-12) have won five in a row at Minnesota since that defeat, coach Larry Drew isn't feeling confident about his team's play after it was outscored 33-9 in the third quarter of Saturday's 89-81 loss to Boston. Atlanta led by as many as 19 in the second period before suffering its third setback in four games. "When you play against teams that do smack you, you have to respond. It's just the way it is. Everybody has to do it. Every team is the league has to do it," said Drew, whose team rallied from an 18-point third-quarter deficit to defeat visiting Minnesota 93-91 on Jan. 14. "And when you don't do it, you get labeled, you get a tag on you. And that's the last thing I want to happen to my ball club." The possible return of Anthony Morrow (strained right hip) and Devin Harris (sore left foot) from injury could help Drew's club. Morrow, who has missed the last five games, and Harris, who has been sidelined for the last 10, will travel with the team as it also plays Cleveland on Wednesday night.
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