x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

It's Love on the rebound for Minnesota record-breaker

The Timberwolves forward turns in the first 30-point, 30-rebound game in 28 years.

Even though he stands 2.08m and weighs 113kg, Kevin Love is hardly an imposing presence. His physique is far more "cuddly" than "cut". He smiles a lot. He cracks jokes and acts modestly.

But the man who looks like the gentlest of giants is the leading rebounder in the NBA. Arguably, he is the biggest force under the basket in the league.

The Minnesota Timberwolves forward, only 22, is no overnight sensation, but he certainly was the overnight talk of the NBA after making history on Friday.

He pulled down 31 rebounds and scored 31 points against the New York Knicks. It was the first 30-30 game by a Minnesota player and the first by anyone in 28 years; Moses Malone managed it in 1982.

This followed the 24 rebounds and 23 points Love racked up against the Los Angeles Lakers three nights earlier.

A 20-20 game is impressive. A 30-30 game is hard to digest. Even Love, a day later, had not grasped what he had accomplished.

"It's something I'll look back on and be, like, 'Wow, I got a 30 and 30'. It's pretty unbelievable," he said.

Just a week ago the discussion in Minnesota was whether Kurt Rambis, the coach, ought to play Love for a higher fraction of a game's 48 minutes. Was he worthy? Rambis apparently thought he was not.

Until the game against the Lakers, Love played as many as 30 minutes in only one of Minnesota's first seven games. Which seemed curious, considering that Love has healthy averages of 18 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. And it is not as if the Timberwolves could not afford to develop a young player. Last season, they won only 15 games. The previous season, 24.

This season was expected to be more of the same. They were viewed as a bad team without a star player, without much personality or leadership.

But their home, Target Center Arena, was rocking on Friday, and now the league is abuzz over Love.

"There was a point where Target Center, the whole crowd, was better than I've seen it the last couple years," Love said. "That was a good moment. A lot of things happened for us and it was a collective effort and they were cheering us on."

As well as a less-than-fierce demeanour, Love has endured questions about his athleticism. He is thought to be barely capable of jumping over a shoe.

But rebounding is about intelligence, positioning and instinct. And most of all, will. Simply wanting to get it done. Few modern players are willing to put forth that effort. Rebounding is not as glamorous as scoring, with its dunks and three-pointers. But teams do not win without rebounding well.

"Kevin, when he plays that hard and he's that focused and that determined, you can have games of super-high quality," Rambis said.


Players of the week

• Kevin Love, Minnesota: the unassuming Timberwolves forward had himself a week to remember, averaging 21.3 rebounds and 20.1 points in three games. He capped it with the first 30-rebound, 30-point game in the NBA since 1982.

• Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma: Love’s former college teammate (UCLA) averaged 33.5 points and 9.5 assists in two victories.

• Deron Williams, Utah: Williams, below, continues to look like one of the finest point guards in the NBA, averaging 23 points and 11.8 assists in leading the Jazz to four consecutive road victories.

Teams of the week

• San Antonio: The Spurs won all three of their games to push their winning streak to six and their record to 7-1.

• New Orleans: The last undefeated team standing. The Hornets won twice to push their record to 8-0. They have not allowed a team to score 100 points yet this season.

Duds of the week

• Baron Davis, LA Clippers: out of shape, constantly hurt, a major disappointment and out at least until the end of the month as he tries to get healthy. Or in shape.

• Atlanta: team schizophrenia. Since a 6-0 start they have done an 0-4 about-face.


Game of the week

• Oklahoma City at Boston, Friday: two fine teams, one the league’s youngest and the other its oldest. Boston’s old guys won the first meeting 92-83.