Kevin Love refuses to call it a rivalry because he has a high threshold for such things, but there’s something going on between him and Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge.
As they did a season ago, the two power forwards had another exchange that turned physical on Friday in the Wolves’ 103-95 loss to the Blazers.
This time, it featured Love shoving Aldridge underneath the basket – typical NBA stuff among big men, Love said afterward – and escalated into a pair of fouls and then a pair of technical fouls early in the third quarter that contributed to the foul trouble that sent Aldridge to the bench midway through the third with five of them.
“I personally didn’t deserve it,” Love said about the Ts. “I walked away. He was doing whatever it was that he was doing. I think he was just trying to hype his team up.”
The Wolves led 59-54 at the time and still were ahead 65-62 when Aldridge picked up that fifth foul and went to the bench midway through the third quarter.
Without him, the Blazers then outscored the Wolves 22-13 over the next nine minutes on a night when the visitors couldn’t defend Portland’s starting backcourt of rookie Damian Lillard and Wes Matthews.
Here’s the game story that details their nights, when they combined to shoot 68 percent, make nine threes and score 58 points.
Getting back to the theme….
So what’s the deal between Aldridge and Love?
Is there a deal?
Of course, both say no.
“I don’t think so,” Aldridge said, “but everybody else might think so.”
Love also pooh-poohed the notion.
“No, no, you could ask him and I think he’d say the same,” Love said. “There’s plenty of premier power forwards in the league and we both happen to be one of them. But I don’t think there’s any rivalry between us. You create rivalries in the playoffs and plain and simple, I haven’t been there yet.”
Maybe not a rivalry, but there does seem to be something there.
Part of it probably dates to when Love made his first All-Star Game in 2011 with gaudy stats on a lousy team, picked above a more physically gifted Aldridge who has helped his team win more than Love's team since each player entered the league.
Part of it might be that Love gets more out of what he has, which might get under Aldridge’s skin some because that’s something he’s never really been accused of.
So, too, might Love's always more physical play.
Either way, any way, each wants to prove he’s better than the other.
Love had a 24-point, 13-rebound double-double in his second game back from injury. Aldridge had 13 and 6, but his team won.
His team almost always wins: The Blazers are 10-2 against the Wolves when both players have played.
The Blazers now have beaten the Wolves 13 of the last 14 times at Rose Garden.
That one time?
The Wolves needed Love’s 42 points last March to end a five-year, 16-game losing streak in Portland.
A few other bits of this and that from tonight:
Derrick Williams – the 2011 draft’s No. 2 overall pick – didn’t play a second again for the second consecutive game.
Rick Adelman said before the game that he knew someone would be left out when Love returned from that broken hand. He also said he intended to get Williams into Friday’s game somewhere, somehow.
He never did, going with Love for nearly 36 minutes and Dante Cunningham for 19 minutes off the bench because, he said, Cunningham clearly has won that power-forward battle with Williams so far.
He even played Lou Amundson eight minutes, turning to Amundson to play center when he went with a small lineup.
Backup center Greg Stiemsma also sat all night tonight.
So does that mean Williams is deep, deep, deep in Adelman’s “doghouse” – the word folks on Twitter love to use – and does this mean Williams’ days are numbered?
No and no.
It means that Williams hasn’t played well enough to Adelman's liking to earn Adelman’s trust above Cunningham and Amundson, guys who have both been in the league longer, and it does mean that the Wolves seemingly have given up, at least for now, with that experiment playing Williams at small forward.
He could still show up there someday even with Andrei Kirilenko and now Josh Howard still around, but probably only if Adelman plays Love more at center, something he’d rather not do unless it’s absolutely needed to get the Wolves’ struggling offense thus far clicking.
Lillard – the early clubhouse leader for Rookie of the Year – became the first rookie since Steph Curry in March 2010 to record at least 28 points and eight assists without a turnover in a game.
Him against Luke Ridnour tonight simply was a mismatch in size and speed.
Lillard has scored 20 points or more 11 times this season. All other NBA rookies have scored 20 or more 11 times combined.
* The Wolves now have lost four straight after starting the season 5-2.
And this road trip just keep moving along: They play at up-and-coming Golden State on Saturday in this stretch where they play four road games in six nights.
Good night from Portland. I'll be back tomorrow from Oakland.