Love striving to regain consistency

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 31, 2012 - 3:03 AM

An injury-plagued season has been "very frustrating," as the Wolves forward vacillates between great games and ones when he can't make his shots.

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Consistency has been elusive for Wolves forward Kevin Love, who so far this season has had to deal with broken bones in his right hand, the flu, a bruised thumb and being poked in the eye.

Photo: Marlin Levison, Star Tribune

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Kevin Love said it before Saturday's game, and he repeated it afterward: It's only one game; it's all about being consistent.

That has been the big issue for Love, who has had to deal with broken bones in his right hand, the flu, a bruised thumb and being poked in the eye. He'll have a good night, like the 10-for-20, 23-point performance he had Dec. 17 in Orlando. Then he'll follow it up by going 2-for-10 the next night in Miami.

In the Wolves' big win over Oklahoma City, Love came out hot and finished with 28 points on 9-for-20 shooting. He felt his conditioning coming back, his legs getting stronger. Then he got poked in the eye and had to refrain from most activity for a few days, returning with a 3-for-14 performance against Houston.

"I was just getting back really to myself, as far as conditioning goes," Love said. "And then I got poked in the eye and couldn't do anything. I couldn't practice, couldn't lift, do push-ups, sit-ups, nothing. ... I just hope to stay healthy for the rest of this year, 2013 and beyond."

Love could, finally, be rounding into form. Coming off the loss to Houston, he spent two days staying after practice for extra shots, then getting in spirited workouts in the weight room. On Saturday morning he said he felt his conditioning improving, that his body was finally starting to feel good. And then there is his hand. For weeks Love has tried to get the feel back in his hand, to get comfortable shooting after letting the broken bones heal.

Saturday he went out and played a big part in a victory over Phoenix in which the Wolves frontcourt dominated. Love had 23 points and 18 rebounds, shooting 8-for-20.

"Some days, it feels good," Love said. "Some days it doesn't feel so good. Hopefully, the New Year will bring a lot of good things for me and, more importantly, for the team. I was a little reluctant to shoot the ball [against Houston], because [it was] one of those days when it just didn't feel right. Everybody's been telling me to shoot those shots because it's going to come. I really do believe it will."

When Love is hitting his shots -- or enough of them -- it has a huge effect on the Wolves' offense. Saturday night was a great example. As the Wolves were taking back control of the game in the fourth quarter, Nikola Pekovic was able to dominate inside because the Suns were unwilling to leave Love on the perimeter.

But Love knows there will still be some nights when shooting is hard. "I had surgery [on his left hand during the 2009-10 season], but having it on a non-shooting hand is a little different," Love said. "The guide hand, it's completely different. With my right hand, trying to get my shooting touch back, it's been a bit of a struggle. Some days I wake up feeling great; some days I'll wake up and my hand will feel like a stone."

The good news is that Love is rounding into shape, getting his legs under him. That will help his shot, as will continued extra work and giving his hand more time to feel right again.

"It's been very, very frustrating to say the least, just missing shots I've made my entire life," Love said. "I do know that those shots are going to fall at some point. But when you have two or three games in a row where you don't shoot the ball particularly well and the team is counting on you to be a big scoring threat and be the No. 1 option? It can be frustrating. But everybody's had my back, and they know what I'm capable of. I just need to string a couple games together, because my staple has been my consistency over the years."

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