The workhorse scored 40 points and grabbed 19 rebounds.
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Afterward, he sat in a chair in front of his locker. A tired Kevin Love had played another 43-plus minutes, played through the pain of a nasty knee-on-knee hit late in the second quarter Wednesday night, and carried the Timberwolves for most of the game.
Bags of ice were everywhere.
"It'll be OK," Love said, nodding at his right knee. Then he grinned. "What won't be fine is my shoulder after 31 attempts."
What a month.
In an 88-83 victory over a Charlotte Bobcats team that played with more energy than one would expect from a seven-win team, Love, as it has been since March began, led the way.
Love attempted a career-high 31 shots, but never forced one. He made 14, four from three-point range. He scored 40 points and grabbed 19 rebounds. (When informed of that number, Wolves coach Rick Adelman joked that Love must have missed a shot late hoping to get to 20).
With Charlotte hanging around, Love scored 14 of his points and grabbed six of his rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Wolves secured an important victory.
For a team still hanging on the edge of a playoff chase, coming off Tuesday's loss in Memphis, this had to happen.
"Tough game," Adelman said. "[The Bobcats] played hard the whole game. Finally, in the fourth quarter, we were able to open up a lead and hold onto it.
''[Love] was terrific tonight. The way he's been able to sustain this? Night after night? It says a lot. He is the guy who took it over in the fourth quarter."
It was Love's 10th game with 30-plus points and 15 or more rebounds, the 19th time he has scored 30 or more this season. It was also the third time he has scored 40 or more points this month.
And it's a tribute to the Bobcats that the Wolves, playing without Michael Beasley, J.J. Barea and Nikola Pekovic, needed all of that to win.
Luke Ridnour also had a big night, with 15 points and 14 assists. Anthony Tolliver (11) was the only other Wolves player in double figures. Corey Maggette's 22 points led Charlotte, which was held to 40 percent shooting.
Before the game Adelman stressed playing transition defense, not letting the Bobcats run. But in a first half that ended with the Wolves down two, the Bobcats were the aggressors, scoring 17 fast-break points and getting to the free-throw line 14 times.
Finally, Adelman's message got through. The Wolves slowed the Bobcats down, held them to 37 percent shooting, and started making plays on offense. Especially in the fourth quarter.
Up 74-71 with 9 minutes to go the fourth quarter, Love helped take control of the game. Over the next six minutes the Wolves went on a 14-6 run, with Love scoring eight points.
Love, averaging 30.6 points and 13.7 rebounds in March, had 26 points and 12 rebounds in the second half, during which he never sat.
"You've got to keep an eye on him all the time," Bobcats coach Paul Silas said. "Most players just aren't like that. We aren't that way. These young boys we have, they're just not ready for that. If he keeps doing what he's doing for a sustained period, he'll be one of the best ever."
For now, Love and the Wolves were good enough to win.
"I'm definitely in a groove, at least shooting the ball," Love said. "My conditioning feels awesome out there. I feel I have my legs underneath me. I've worked hard my whole career to be where I'm at today. I'm not stopping. I'm going to continue to get better."
|Team Irvin||32||4th Qtr 0:53|
|Houston||87||4th Qtr 9:02|
|Coll of Charleston||53|
|William & Mary||57|
|(17) Florida State||110|
|(9) Oregon State||68||FINAL|
|(13) Arizona State||57|
|(12) North Carolina||67|