The Pelicans ended love's streak of 25-point nights at 11 games by asking agile, shot-blocking forward Anthony Davis to defend him, a decision that held love to a mere 21 points but forced New Orleans power forward Ryan Anderson to guard big Minnesota center Nikola Pekovic.
The Wolves used that mismatch down low to get to the basket all night, creating space that allowed them to shoot a season-best 55.7 percent from the field, tie a season scoring high and outdistance New Orleans at the free-throw line by a 35-22 shot advantage.
Minnesota (16-16) created enough momentum for its bench players to forget Monday's game, which ended with the Wolves screaming for a foul call that never came on love's last-second shot. The Dallas Mavericks escaped with a two-point win that night, and the NBA acknowledged the next day that love should have been awarded two free throws.
Among the Wolves' starters, Pekovic scored 22 points, love scored 21 and guard Kevin Martin added 20. More important, guard J.J. Barea's 17 points led a bench crew that combined to score 42 points just two nights after Dallas' reserves outscored them 26-5. Reserve power forward Dante Cunningham and shooting guard Alexey Shved contributed 10 points each.
"I don't like it," Barea said about love's words. "I'm not going to comment a lot on that, but I definitely don't like it. But I think it's good the bench heard it, and we played good tonight. It's something we need to keep doing the rest of the season."
love called Wednesday's victory "one of my favorite wins" of the season because he didn't play particularly well -- 7-for-19 from the field, a season-low six rebounds -- and others stepped forth, particularly the bench players.
"Nobody's ever going to like that," he said about his Monday comments. "It wasn't me being down on them. It was me asking for more because we're going to need them in 2014.
"We're 16-16 now, and they're going to have to really help us if we want to win. It was more than anything a challenge. I wasn't mad at them. I wasn't saying they were bad or anything like that. It was, yeah, tough love, and sometimes that's the best way to do things."
The Wolves forced 15 first-half turnovers. The Pelicans (14-16) committed just two more the rest of the night, but it didn't matter by then.
Afterward, New Orleans coach Monty Williams accepted the blame for the loss. He said he asked his players to do more than they were capable of while trying to take away love, who averaged a league-high 30 points a game in December.
"Our game plan was too difficult for our guys tonight," Williams said. "That's on me. I've got to keep the game plan more simple than I did against a team like Minnesota with some veteran players who know how to make you pay if you make a mistake. Obviously, we have to play a lot better than how we played tonight."
"We set the tone from beginning and we won the game," said Wolves point guard Ricky Rubio, who finished with 14 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. "It was a great effort from everybody. That's the things we need if we want to be a good team."
NOTES: Pelicans SG Eric Gordon started Wednesday after missing the previous three games because of an injured hip. He scored 12 points. ... The NBA's admission Tuesday that its officials messed up in the Wolves' 100-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks didn't help Minnesota coach Rick Adelman feel any better. The league said F Kevin Love was fouled by Dallas F Shawn Marion in the final second and should have received two free throws that could have tied the game. "It doesn't matter," Adelman said. "It's over with. It doesn't do any good to think about it now."... love led the NBA in scoring in December with a 30.0-point average and was third behind the Los Angeles Clippers C DeAndre Jordan and Houston Rockets C Dwight Howard in rebounding at 13.7 a game. ... The Pelicans waived former Wolves PF Lou Amundson hours before the game, but C Greg Stiemsma made his return to Target Center, where he played last season. Stiemsma said friends from Sioux Falls, S.D., and his home state of Wisconsin traveled to Minneapolis for the game.