NEW ORLEANS – Kevin Love thankfully made good on a promise when he was introduced as a Western Conference starter for the first time before Sunday’s 163-155 All-Star Game loss to the East.
He didn’t dance.
“I told you,” the Timberwolves forward said afterward.
Love kept his word Sunday by simply striking a pose when he was announced as a three-time All Star and a first-time starter and then he went out and did everything he said he hoped he might, except for anything that approached what he had called a “highlight” dunk.
He left those dunks to West teammates Blake Griffin and Kevin Durant and East star LeBron James and left the fancy plays to pal Kyrie Irving, who scored 15 of his 31 points and won game MVP honors for a fourth-quarter comeback after the East had trailed by as many as 18 points.
Love played nearly 33 minutes in his new role and came within a rebound of his usual double-double with a 13-point, nine-rebound night that included two three-pointers.
“I had a couple that went for me,” said Love, who attempted seven threes. “The big man is sometimes overlooked in this game unless your name is Blake Griffin. It was a great thing to be a part of. It was a lot of fun, starting in the game and also first time finishing.”
Included in his night, too, was a three-point air ball.
“That was indeed an air ball,” Love said. “It happens to the best of us.”
All-Star Game jitters?
“No, just catch and shoot,” Love said. “I threw it up there, didn’t draw iron. Scary.”
Griffin scored 38 points — as did Durant — and seven of those were first-quarter dunks that pushed the West to a lead that grew to 123-105 well into the third quarter before Irving and Carmelo Anthony brought the East back to win it in the fourth.
Anthony’s eight three-pointers set an All-Star Game record on a night when players from both teams led the arena in a rendition of “Happy Birthday” to Hall of Famer Bill Russell, who celebrated his birthday Wednesday.
“This was by far one of the most memorable All-Star weekends,” Anthony said, attributing part of that to the birthday celebration. “It was a great atmosphere.”
Particularly if you love offense.
The West attempted 127 shots, the East 115. Durant credited his 38 points and 10 rebounds this way: “You put up 127 shots and the rebounds just fall in your hands.”
The West led 89-76 by halftime alone and at one point East coach Frank Vogel barked at his team to get back on defense.
Well, sort of.
“I did say it with half a smile,” Vogel said, “and they all laughed at me.”
Afterward, players such as James and Miami Heat teammate Dwyane Wade seemingly passed the torch to a younger generation of players on display through All-Star weekend by instructing Irving how to display the game MVP trophy properly.
“I just wanted him to have his moment,” James said. “And the moment is holding that trophy above your head. It’s the few moments in our year when you do that. Winning a championship, winning the MVP and the other championship is winning the MVP of the All-Star Game. He seemed like he didn’t know exactly what to do and I just want to try to give him a little tip.”
Love hadn’t played a game since Wednesday, and he did that in a victory over Denver when he played on a leg still hurting after he was kneed in the thigh the week before.
“I felt fine, obviously didn’t have much legs,” Love said. “I knew I wouldn’t play as many minutes as I would at home, but it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, I’ll be back in New York next year and enjoy it again.”
The 2015 All-Star Game will be split between the New York and Brooklyn franchises, with the Knicks and Madison Square Garden hosting the Sunday game and the Nets and Barclays Center hosting the Friday and Saturday events.
Love left the newly renamed Smoothie King Center after Sunday’s game and headed for the airport for a flight home on owner Glen Taylor’s private jet. The Wolves resume their schedule after a six-day All-Star break by playing Indiana at home Wednesday before they head west on a five-game trip.
“I’m going to rest tomorrow and hopefully Tuesday and be ready to go for Wednesday,” Love said.