By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN
STATS Senior Writer
As the San Antonio Spurs begin a three-game road trip, they continue to place an emphasis on limiting Tim Duncan's minutes.
The Spurs, though, may need all the frontcourt help they can muster against Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Love, who posted one of his NBA-high 17 double-doubles in a victory over the Spurs earlier this month, has been red-hot in his last two games heading into Friday night's matchup.
San Antonio (12-7) enters with a 2-6 road record as it tries to match a season high with a third straight victory. Duncan had six points and 11 boards in 21 minutes of a 105-83 home win over Atlanta on Wednesday, with the lopsided contest allowing him some time off.
"We just need to keep playing hard, try to give the big man as much time off as possible," center DeJuan Blair said. "I know he wants to be out there, but we need him for the long run."
In the short run, Love presents a formidable challenge with 70 points and 22 boards in his last two contests. He had 31 and 10 in a 105-90 win at Dallas on Wednesday, hours after signing a four-year extension worth more than 60 million.
"It's a good day, putting aside everything that happened earlier in the day and focusing on the game and getting a big win," Love said.
Love had 24 points and 15 rebounds in a 106-96 home victory Jan. 2 that snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Spurs. He's recorded double-doubles in all seven career starts against San Antonio.
Minnesota (8-10), however, also had Michael Beasley in its frontcourt for the first meeting. Beasley has been out since Jan. 6 with a sprained right foot, and it's not clear when he will be back.
The Wolves could still present the Spurs with another stiff test because Ricky Rubio is now starting. The Spanish guard leads all rookies with 8.7 assists per game, with 35 over his last three contests.
Rubio will likely match up with veteran Tony Parker. The Spurs' top scorer is happy that his string of logging at least 34 minutes came to an end at nine games Wednesday.
"It was a good night to rest, especially at home, play 29 minutes," said Parker, who had 15 points and is averaging 17.6. "It was good for my body. I think on the road, I'm going to have to play a lot more, especially to get those wins."
Big games from Duncan and Parker weren't needed since San Antonio's reserves produced 51 points.
"A number of people came in and played good solid basketball at both the defensive and offensive ends," coach Gregg Popovich said. "So I was really pleased with the bench."
The Spurs will be looking for an improved defensive performance against Minnesota. The Wolves shot a season-high 57.7 percent in the first meeting, the second-highest percentage allowed by San Antonio this season.
The Spurs also face Southwest Division rivals Dallas and Memphis on this trip.
"It's going to be a tough road trip, we've got three big games so hopefully we can get some wins over there," Parker said.