SACRAMENTO, CALIF. - The Timberwolves waved farewell both to Kevin Love's blasted padded glove and their five-game losing streak with Tuesday night's 97-89 victory at Sacramento.
Love kept off that protective, fingerless glove he ripped off during Saturday's fourth quarter at Golden State because he said it was restricting him from being the real Kevin Love.
Without it, he delivered the kind of 23-point, 24-rebound, 44-minute performance to which Wolves fans have become accustomed ever since his 30-point, 30-rebound game in Nov. 2011, the first such game in the NBA since 1982.
On Tuesday, it looked for awhile as if he were aiming to do it all over again, if only a few more of his three-pointers had gone in on a night when he made just two and missed six of them.
The real Kevin Love?
"Yeah, he did, he did look like it," Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. "That was one of the more complete games he has played. He let the game come to him. He passed the ball. He set screens. He made shots. He rebounded it. It was just a complete all-around game. He told me he felt good all along, and we sure needed it."
Love’s 24 rebounds were the most in an NBA game this season, one more than Cleveland’s Anderson Varejao’s 23 on Oct. 30. Twenty-one of those were on the defensive end, a career high for him. It was the 16th time he has had a 20/20 game in his career and it was his fourth career game of 24 or more rebounds.
While teammate Ricky Rubio was away Tuesday in Vail, Colo., getting what he hopes is a final checkup that will allow him to return to practice by week's end, the Wolves won for the first time in more than two weeks, since a Nov. 12 game at Dallas.
Three of the Wolves' starters played 36 minutes or more and all but Malcolm Lee played 30 or more on a night when Adelman shortened his bench and again left Derrick Williams on the bench all game in a focused attempt to win.
Love played those 44 minutes while starting small forward Andrei Kirilenko played more than 41, including the final seven when he looked to Adelman for a breather and the coach asked if he had 7 more minutes in him.
"I can't remember the last time I asked to come out of a game," Love said. "In the fourth quarter, I waved at Coach and said, 'You've got to get me a couple minute break.' I'm still a ways away [from being himself]. I came back and played three games in four nights with no practice. I had one practice yesterday and then right into another back-to-back. I kind of threw myself into the gauntlet a little bit.
"But it's not about me. It's about us getting a win and we needed this win. It was just a great effort all around."
The Wolves led by 13 points in the third quarter, by nine with as little as 7 minutes left before the Kings got to within three with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left, then within two points with 1 minute, 17 seconds remaining.
But that's as close as Sacramento came, thanks to Kirilenko once again earning his money at both ends of the court.
After the Kings pulled within 91-89, he accepted Love's pass to the left of the basket, held it for just an instant and then shoveled a pass through traffic across the lane to Nikola Pekovic for a layup and a four-point lead with a minute left.
Eleven seconds later, he blocked DeMarcus Cousins at the other end, and then Love put the Kings away for good with a ridiculous, desperate turnaround from 15 feet away that banged off the rim and somehow went through.
Love grinned at his coach and his teammates as he ran back down the court.
"That's just how I drew it up," Adelman deadpanned.
That shot guaranteed a victory the Wolves felt they so desperately needed after they followed a 5-2 season start with that five-game losing streak that ended Tuesday night.