After the Minnesota Timberwolves narrowly escaped the Los Angeles Clippers 95-94 on Monday, Wolves’ All-Star power forward Kevin Love resoundingly proclaimed, “This is my time right now.” Based off the numbers he put up on Monday, it’s hard to dispute his declaration.
In this truncated season, where players are inconsistent and injuries have piled up, Love has emerged as the Timberwolves leader, expanding his game from the paint to the perimeter to become a legitimate 3-point threat. Last night, the Clippers discovered the hard way the long-range of the 3-point shootout champion. In front of a sellout crowd at the Target Center, Love scored a game-high 39 points and grabbed 17 rebounds to outpace Chris Paul and company. He opened the game with 16-first quarter points, then ended it scoring nine points on 4-of-6 shots in the fourth quarter, including six of the Wolves’ final seven. His last two came on a drive into the lane with 43.4 seconds left that gave Minnesota a 95-90 lead. And despite a costly turnover in the waning moments, the Wolves’ were able to hang on after CP3 failed to send the game into overtime when he missed the third of three free throws with 2.7 seconds left. Paul finished with 18 points and five assists.
Love’s evolution has been one to watch this season. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Love became the first player in NBA history to record 35 points, 10 rebounds and knock-down five 3-pointers in consecutive games. On Saturday, the two-time All-Star scored 42 points against the Portland Trail Blazers and last night fell a point short of becoming the first Wolves’ player to score back-to-back 40-point games. His 39 point performance was his 13th game with 30 or more points this season.
Last night, Love’s versatility and shot-making definitely set him apart from his superstar counterpart Blake Griffin (26 points, 12 rebounds), but was it enough to place him in contention for league MVP?