NBA Sunday: It's the season of Love

Published: Sunday, March 20 2011 7:22 a.m. MDT

Kevin Love sat in front of his locker at EnergySolutions Arena, watching film while preparing to play against the Utah Jazz for the fourth time this season on Wednesday night.

On the big screen inside the visitors' locker room was video of Minnesota's 122-101 win over the Jazz on March 11. The Timberwolves' power forward/center laughed at himself for flexing his muscles after he made a play during his 24-point, 12-rebound effort. He said, "And one," after teammate Michael Beasley scored the first two points of a three-point play against the Jazz.

Love apparently doesn't take himself too seriously — but it's obvious that the second-year center has some serious game.

Love has had a spectacular season while playing for one of the league's worst teams. He has accomplished incredible statistical feats on an almost nightly basis. He had 31 points and 31 rebounds in a win over the Knicks on Nov. 12, and has recorded at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in the same game four times this season.

Minnesota coach Kurt Rambis acknowledged before Wednesday's game that he's answered about "400 million" questions about Love this season, but was nice enough to answer some more. He is mostly impressed with how well Love has rebounded. It's a thankless — and difficult — job to get near the basket and collect loose balls against some of the greatest athletes in the world.

And no one is doing it better than Love this season, who leads the league in rebounding.

"The kind of numbers that he's putting up on a nightly basis are very ridiculous numbers," Rambis said. "Points-wise, yeah you've seen those kind of numbers intermittently with individuals, but to combine them with the rebound totals, that's pretty scary. The points people can get, they can manufacture their own shots. Some nights that's easy, and some nights it's not. With rebounding, it's always going to be tough. You're always going to have to fight, always going to have to get in where you have to do a lot of dirty work to get those rebounds, and he does it with a workmanlike fashion every single night."

Love, who played in the All-Star game as a reserve last month, put together an amazing streak of double-doubles this season. He had 53 consecutive double-doubles, the longest in the NBA since Elvin Hayes had a streak of 55 in 1973-74.

Love had his streak stopped the game before the Timberwolves came to Utah. He had six points and 12 rebounds in a loss at Golden State last Sunday. It wasn't entirely a bad thing for Love to have his streak end, as he could just go out and play without the pressure of keeping it alive.

"I'm not upset about it, but it was a good run," Love said. "People mention that all good things come to an end. It just happened to be against the Golden State Warriors last (Sunday). I've said all along that things like that are going to happen and (Wednesday night) could be the start of another streak."

Love did indeed start a new double-double streak against the Jazz with 22 points and 11 rebounds. He made it two straight with 15 points and 13 rebounds against the Lakers on Friday night. That's no small feat considering the size and length of the reigning world champs.

Rambis said Love has had to combat a combination of players and coaches to continue producing.

"Every coach, I'm sure, part of their gameplan is trying to find a way to keep him off the glass and not let him have an impact on the game in that area," Rambis said. "So he's not only dealing with a player that's trying to block him out — or players — he's also dealing with a gameplan trying to stop him and he's still having success. So it's been an extraordinary season for him and I think he's getting better."

If Love continues to maintain his averages of 20.6 points and 15.6 rebounds per game, he'll be the first player since Moses Malone in 1982-83 to average at least 20 points and 15 rebounds for a full season.

Love isn't just looking to maintain his level of play. He wants to keep getting better.

"I still think I can get a lot better," Love said. "I think I've enjoyed a pretty good season, but there's always room for improvement. I'm looking forward to grinding out these last 14-15 games and trying to get as many wins as possible."

The Timberwolves have the second-worst record in the Western Conference, besting only the Sacramento Kings.

"Obviously, the team is not where we would have liked it to be," Love said. "I think our record doesn't indicate how good of a team we actually are."

The Timberwolves have a long way to go in their attempts to rebuild, but do have a great franchise cornerstone in Love. He is a one-of-a-kind player who at 6-foot-10 and 260 pounds makes 42.3 percent of his 3-point attempts.

"The versatility of his game is a great asset for his team to have," Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said of Love.

email: aaragon@desnews.com

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