Being a statistical beast isn’t helping Kevin Love getting any closer to his first playoff appearance. He might have proved he is the best power forward in the league by outscoring and outplaying Blake Griffin, but in the rough Western Conference the Minnesota Timberwolves just keep distancing themselves away from a postseason spot, losing 120-116 to the Los Angeles Clippers.
Blake Griffin gets more votes in the All-Star voting than Love or Aldridge, but is probably the inferior player. If the season’s averages don’t tell you that, than maybe the 45 points and 19 rebounds from Love do the trick. Not that Griffin played badly – he scored 32 points and added 10 rebounds before fouling out in an aggressive game, that also saw Matt Barnes get ejected for a dirty foul on Love. Their targeting eventually worked, with Love slightly out of it in the key moments, almost disappearing in overtime.
This is a game that got away from the Timberwolves, holding a 106-102 lead. However, the Clippers cut it down to two and Minnesota inbounded from the halfcourt line. Instead of doing something smart, Kevin Martin got trapped and turned the ball over, giving Jamal Crawford the chance to tie the game with under nine seconds left. Nikola Pekovic was the one who got the ball, missing two shots, sending the game into overtime.
No more magic from Love or anyone from the Timberwolves. They did take a 114-112 lead through Nikola Pekovic (34 points, 14 rebounds), but after Jared Dudley hit his only three-pointer of the game (1-of-7 from beyond the arc), Pekovic missed a hook shot, and the Wolves slipped into the loss from there.
So the numbers were extremely impressive, but the same problems come haunting Minnesota again and again. Ricky Rubio? He did finish with 12 assists, but also 0 points, and you can’t have your point guard being such a non-factor when it comes to the team’s scoring.
Chris Paul had a rough 6-of-19 shooting night, but he came up with the key steals and assists, finishing with 19 points and 13 dimes en route to the win. Jamal Crawford scored 22 points, and the Clippers are 5-0 since he has entered the lineup after the Clippers struggled initially coping with J.J. Redick’s injury.
The Clippers remain slightly behind the current powers of the West – Thunder, Spurs, Blazers. However, this team has what it takes to be up there if Griffin continues playing like this. Sure, he isn’t as versatile or efficient like Love or Aldridge, both much better shooters than him, but Griffin is a lot more than just a dunking machine. The Clippers winning without him and Barnes being available for the ending proves just how deep and resilient this team can be, but also how much of a failure was it for the Timberwolves to not close the deal on this game.
So Kevin Love is the first player in 17 years with a 45-19-6 game (Hakeem Olajuwon in 1996), but it doesn’t really matter. Without some defense and a much better game from Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves will once again disappoint him, and it won’t be long before we hear about trade demands.