Love cancels out the Clip Show once more
MINNEAPOLIS — It could be fun.
Really, it should be a lot more fun than this.
Look at those lineups. Look at it all on paper. Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio. Blake
Griffin, Chris Paul. These are some of the biggest young names in the NBA. This
is Lob City coming to Minnesota, which really should have its own nickname by
now. There should be dunks and those passes that look like special effects.
There should be quivering backboards and ridiculous stat lines.
There should be.
In Monday night’s 95-94 Minnesota win, there was a hint of the adrenaline and
the beauty that a Timberwolves-Clippers matchup can provide. It was a sign of
the fun this rivalry might one day be, but even so, the teams have yet to play
to their full explosive capacities against each other. It’s really a shame.
In his first two games against the Clippers this season, Love averaged 13.5
points and 10.5 rebounds, far short of his season averages of 25.0 and 13.6.
Rubio was downright dismal, shooting first 9.1 percent from the field in the
first game vs. the Clippers and then improving — if you can call it that — to
12.5 percent on Feb. 28.
Though the Timberwolves won those first two games, it was the Clippers’
stars who managed to at least meet expectations. Paul scored 27 points and shot
64.7 percent in his one game against Minnesota before Monday night, and Griffin
came into Monday’s matchup averaging 25.5 points against Minnesota. But even
those numbers can be deceiving. In the Feb. 28 loss, Paul, who’s known as a
fourth-quarter game-changer, scored just nine points when the game was on the
line, and Griffin had just one (one!) dunk.
Love won the first matchup with a 3-pointer at the buzzer as the T-wolves
rallied for a 101-98 victory in LA. The second matchup saw Griffin score 30
points and Paul add 27, but Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley finished with
27 points apiece, including 13 each in the fourth quarter as Minnesota rallied
again, this time for a 109-97 win.
Monday’s Minnesota win was sparked by Love. With his 39 points and 17
rebounds, combined with Saturday’s 42-point, 10-rebound performance, he became
the first player in NBA history to record 35 points and 10 rebounds while
hitting five 3-pointers in consecutive games. With 81 points in his past two
outings, he set the team record for the most points by a single player in two
More important than that, Love finally played to his potential against the
Clippers. It still wasn’t that perfect matchup, when the NBA fates align and
he, Griffin, Paul and Rubio all play the stupid-good games they’re capable of.
Rubio again struggled, finishing with just four points and six assists, and
Paul’s 18 points and five assists were off his season averages.
The game was ultimately decided on a missed free throw by the unshakeable
Paul, a win that came down to inaction rather than action. So sure, it could
have been better, but with Love and Griffin both in fighting form, it was
something to watch.
“It’s always fun watching K-Love do what he does best,” Minnesota’s Williams
said. “Blake … he’s a really exciting player. A lot of people want to
watch both of those guys get out there and go at it. It’s good for the
The story wasn’t Griffin’s dunks. This time, he was limited to just two. It
wasn’t the fluid passing from point guard to forward, either, and there were
only rare glimpses of those Paul-to-Griffin lobs and Rubio-to-Love assists. The
story was a 23-year-old power forward named Kevin Love, providing even more
proof that he should be in that conversation with Griffin for the best at their
position in the league.
It was Love’s time. He said it himself after the game. Since the All-Star
break, other teammates have stepped up and tipped the team to its wins. But on
Saturday and again on Monday, it’s been Love’s turn.
“You just have to have the you-know-what and go out there and try to make
the shots,” Love said. “In crunch time I’m just as comfortable as I
am in the first quarter.”
Last week in Los Angeles, there were cheers for Griffin. Of course there were.
He scored 30 points that night. There were yells of “MVP” peppered
amongst those cheers, as would befit a player like Griffin. But, more notably,
there was apathy toward Love, no need to cheer or boo or make much noise at
On Monday, though, the “MVP” yells echoed loudly through the
Target Center for Love, a chorus rather than a smattering. For Griffin, apathy
was out of the question. There were boos and jeers, at times outrage. There was
the stuff of a nascent rivalry.
With two teams that could be on the brink of something big, that’s to be
expected. Love said that what exists between the Timberwolves and the Clippers
is no different than the rivalries with other young teams like Oklahoma City
and Portland, but he didn’t deny that there’s something there. The similarities
only fuel the fire.
When asked about those similarities, Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro almost
didn’t want to admit to them. Sure, his team’s record of 22-14 bests the
Timberwolves 20-19 mark. Yes, he plays in LA with the attention and
expectations and that little hint of superiority over a smaller-market team.
But there’s no denying what’s there.
“It’s different,” Del Negro said. “They’re different
Well, of course.
“It’s a new staff, new players, different system. Same thing with
That’s a similarity.
“Both teams are still trying to find their way,” Dell Negro added. “With
the nucleus of their team being younger players… from that standpoint, yeah.
They’re going through the same thing.”
He couldn’t help but admit it. These teams are young and exciting and poised to
make something of themselves. Neither has quite made it yet, but if Monday was
any hint, this matchup is going to be pretty interesting when they finally do.
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