This, Kevin Love said afterwards, is his time.
But what does that mean? After he scored 39 points in a 95-94 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday night at Target Center, in front of the Timberwolves' sixth sellout crowd this season, Love explained. Others had played well for the Wolves coming out of the All-Star break.
"The past two games, it's been my time," he said.
Guess so. Saturday, Love scored 42 at Portland. Monday, he fell a point short of becoming the first Wolves player with back-to-back 40-point games. Guess he'll have to settle for his 13th game with 30 or more.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Love became the first player in NBA history to record 35 points, 10 rebounds and hit five three-pointers in consecutive games.
In the continuing sage of Love's ever-expanding game, we're seeing another step -- consistent crunch-time production, putting the team on his shoulders and bulling his way to victories. In a relentlessly physical game against a Clippers team that never quit, Love opened the game with 16 first-quarter points, then ended it with nine in the fourth quarter, including six of the Wolves' final seven. The last two came on a drive into the lane with 43.4 seconds left that gave the Wolves a 95-90 lead.
Of course, it wasn't over.
A Martell Webster turnover became two Chris Paul free throws with 29.1 seconds left. With 2.7 seconds left, Paul was fouled by Derrick Williams on a three-point attempt. Paul hit the first one, then the second.
But he missed the third.
Ricky Rubio got the rebound and was fouled with 1.8 seconds left. He missed both free throws -- the second on purpose -- but the Clippers weren't able to get a quality shot off.
"I was perfect from the line [until then] and I missed it," Paul said of his miss. "It's tough. I wanted it, I wanted the ball, I want to be in that situation."
The result: The Wolves (20-19) are back over .500 with their fourth consecutive home victory.
"I was thinking we did everything we could to lose the game," Love said of his thoughts as Paul took his free throws. "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
But how about both?
With a paltry six home games in the month of March, this one was big, and the Wolves answered in a game so physical it looked like rugby at times. Just ask Luke Ridnour, who was hauled to the floor by Clippers star Blake Griffin after Ridnour fouled Griffin on a fast break with 2:22 remaining.
The Wolves had beaten the Clippers twice in Los Angeles, and the Clippers were determined to return the favor. In a brutal four quarters, they outrebounded the Wolves and busted through every pick and roll.
But the Wolves, growing as a group like Love is as an individual, stood tall.
"[The Clippers] were trying to make a statement and you have to respond," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said of the physical play.
The Wolves were without starting center Nikola Pekovic (sore right foot), but Darko Milicic stepped in with 13 points and good defense on Griffin, who still scored 26. Ridnour had 12 points and Williams had 15 off the bench. Rubio had just four and struggled shooting, but his play helped the Wolves break open a tie game with a third-quarter run that gave them a 10-point lead entering the fourth.
The team needed every one of those 10, as well as every point from Love, who didn't flinch.
"It's really cool to see him get better and better," Ridnour said of Love.
Said Rubio: "Unbelievable. I mean, he's playing amazing."