Can Wolves forward Kevin Love become a big exception to what has become an NBA rule?
Love was dominant again Saturday in Milwaukee, hitting 11 of 17 shots — including four of six three-pointers — on the way to 33 points in Minnesota’s 117-95 victory.
It was Love’s 10th consecutive game with 25 or more points, a league best this season. It was also his fifth game with 30 points and 15 rebounds this season.
So, the question: In a league in which wing forwards and guards have become the dominant scorers, can Love win the scoring title?
“I don’t know,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “I don’t think it’s that important. He’s got disadvantages. He plays a lot inside, too, where teams can take things away from him. But I don’t worry about that. If he keeps getting 25 points a game, I’ll be happy.”
After Saturday’s games, Love was third in the league in scoring at 26.1 points per game, behind Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (28.3) and New York’s Carmelo Anthony (26.3). Miami’s LeBron James (25.4) is fourth.
Love has averaged 30.8 points, 14.1 rebounds and 4.4 assists during this 10-game stretch, which is reminiscent of his wonderful month of March in 2012, when he averaged 30.7 points, 13.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 16 games.
A hybrid player, Love spends a lot of time behind the three-point line, where he is shooting 45.2 percent the past 10 games. But he does a lot of his work inside, which makes it easier to double-team him.
Anthony, a small forward, won last year’s scoring title. Durant, who plays on the wing almost exclusively, won the three titles before that. In the 2008-09 season it was Miami guard Dwyane Wade. So who was the last real big man to win the title? Playing for Cleveland, James won it in the 2008-09 season, but isn’t he more of a small forward? To find the last pure big man to win a scoring title, one would have to go back to the 1999-2000 season, when Shaquille O’Neal averaged 29.7 points playing center for the Lakers.
So, can Love do it?
“Well, on most nights, I’m not really a volume shooter too much,’’ Love said. “So I don’t know. It’s tough to say. As long as Kevin Durant’s in this league, I doubt I’ll ever lead the league in scoring. He’s a monster out there. For me, I just try to be the most efficient player I can be. If I’m in the top five to 10 in scoring, I think that’s pretty darned good.”
At least one Wolves player thinks it can happen.
“It would be tough, but if he keeps playing like this? It’s possible,” guard J.J. Barea said. “The most important thing is the three-pointer. If his three-ball is going in, he could do it.”
Scoring title or not, Adelman thinks Love is playing the best ball of his career, mainly because his assist totals are up.
“He’s making his teammates better,” Adelman said. “He’s an intelligent player, he sees the floor. And he’s playing better as a team defender.”
Late in Saturday’s game the Wolves bench, which had begun to play better, struggled. With his team up 27, Adelman put his reserves in to start the fourth quarter of the game against Milwaukee. Six-plus minutes later, after the reserves had combined to go 1-for-14 in the quarter, that lead was down to 17 and Adelman put Love, Kevin Martin and Ricky Rubio back into the game.
Still, Adelman wasn’t too upset with his bench, which had played well in the second quarter.
“Things happen,” he said. “Some of the shots weren’t good, we missed foul shots, then we started firing up threes. They have to play like the game’s on the line, all the time. Not that they’re just in there to mop it up. I thought they lost their concentration and it snowballed on ’em.”