Jerry Zgoda's Sunday Insider: Remembering a mad night in March

  • Article by: Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 16, 2012 - 7:25 AM

The Wolves face the Thunder this week for the first time since Kevin Love scored 51 points in a double-overtime defeat.

Kevin Love tried to get around Nick Collison in the second quarter of the Wolves’ most recent game against the Thunder, on March 23, when Oklahoma City prevailed in two overtimes.

Photo: Alonzo Adams, Associated Press

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Two months after he broke his hand, Timberwolves two-time All Star Kevin Love promises he someday soon will become once again the player everybody remembers.

Just in case you don't quite recall that guy, do a YouTube search for his name and "51 points" -- or better yet stumble across an NBA TV's "Hardwood Classics" replay -- for that memorable Friday night in Oklahoma City last March when basketball fans wished they had watched a pro game instead of that evening's NCAA tournament Sweet 16 games.

"That guy is still there," he said. "It's just going to take a little bit of time."

The Wolves' 149-140 double-overtime loss that night nine months ago just might be one reason why TNT chose to carry Thursday night's 6 p.m. rematch at Target Center.

Love predicts that game one day will be "one of those 40, 50 games I'll remember in my career."

It'd likely be quite a bit higher if he walked off the court that night striking a muscle pose as he did after beating the Clippers in Los Angeles with a buzzer-beating three two months before that.

"I wish we had won," he said. "But I won't forget it because of who we were playing against."

The Thunder needed Russell Westbrook's 45 points and Kevin Durant's 40-point, 17-rebound game to overcome Love's first career 50-point game and J.J. Barea's first career triple-double, all coming while the Wolves limped toward the season's finish line with Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic and even Michael Beasley and Darko Milicic all injured.

Love's parents have a game ball stenciled with his night's feat -- 51 points, including seven three-pointers -- at their Oregon home.

Barea has one, too, with the game's date -- March 23, 2012 -- and his 24-point, 14-assist, 10-rebound performance spelled out that he has at his Minneapolis home.

Neither has watched the game since then even though NBA TV occasionally played it again all summer long.

"I'll save that for when I'm older," Barea said, "so I have something to watch."

But neither, either, has forgotten that night when Love forced overtime with a dagger three-pointer over Westbrook, his former UCLA roommate, or when the Wolves led by five with 46 seconds left in the first OT and lost the lead and ultimately the game.

Love remembers his dramatic shot, after he posted up Westbrook at the three-point line, accepted Luke Ridnour's inbounds pass, turned and shot it high and true.

"One of those plays I watched Larry Bird do," Love said. "He used to back his guy into the three-point line and because he was so tall, he'd just shoot his feathery jump shot over the guy guarding him. I just tried to emulate what he did: Turn, gave a little jab, a little elbow and let it fly."

Love also won't forget being called for traveling with 16 seconds left in the first overtime. The Wolves led 129-126 at the time and Love appeared headed toward making it a five-point lead, but his violation allowed Durant to hit a clutch three of his own with 10 seconds left that forced the second overtime.

"I was ticked at Joey because I didn't think I walked," Love said, referring to official Joey Crawford. "But when I went back and looked at it, I'm pretty sure I did."

Barea had the chance to answer Durant's three with a three-pointer and put the Wolves back ahead with four seconds left in the first overtime, but it just missed.

"I thought it was in," Barea said. "It was a good shot. That would have won it. But then it wouldn't have been the double-overtime game and all the stuff that everyone remembers, would it?"

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