Big Love

Kevin Love (42) has been putting up huge numbers for the Timberwolves this season. Photo courtesy of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Forward Kevin Love of the Minnesota Timberwolves has had an incredible week so far. In Monday’s victory over Golden State, Love scored 36 points (13-23 from the floor, 3-5 from three, 7-10 from the free-throw line) and grabbed 17 rebounds. That was Love’s eighth 30/15 game of the year; all other NBA players had combined for only six such nights this season.

In Wednesday’s loss to the Spurs, Love was held below his season scoring average, but still recorded a double-double with 17 points and 12 boards.

On Friday night, however, Love exploded in a double-overtime loss to the OKC Thunder. Love grabbed 14 rebounds and set a new Timberwolves franchise record for points in a single game with 51. Love made 16 of 27 from the floor and sank seven three-pointers in eleven attempts; he was also 12-16 from the foul line. Video highlights of the performance are here.

During the month of March, Love has averaged a league-best 30.9 points per game and is shooting 47.0% from the floor during that span. The percentage is especially impressive in light of the fact that the three-point shot is an important facet of Love’s game.

Clearly, Love is on a roll as his team heads into this afternoon’s game against the Nuggets.

Talented but troubled Isaiah Rider was drafted fifth overall by Minnesota in 1993 and played for the Timberwolves from 1993-1996. Photo courtesy of slamonline.com.

I checked Minnesota’s media guide to see who held the record that Love broke on Friday night. I was worried when I saw that Isaiah Rider had two 40-point games for Minnesota during the 1994-95 season. Rider was a prodigious talent, but had a reputation for boorish behavior and became a charter member of the “Jail Blazers” after Minnesota shipped him to Portland before the 1996-1997 season.

The Wolves’ single-game scoring record, however, was previously held by another famous Kevin: Kevin Garnett, who holds a multitude of Minnesota franchise records. During twelve seasons with the team, Garnett appeared in 927 games (team record), with 890 starts (team record). KG scored 19,041 points as a Timberwolf (team record), and also holds the franchise career records for total rebounds, offensive rebounds, defensive rebounds, blocked shots, assists, and steals.

On January 4, 2005, Garnett set the record for most points in a single game by a Minnesota player, when he dropped 47 in a 122-115 loss to the Suns. In that game (which concluded at the end of regulation), Garnett was 19-28 from the floor and 9-11 from the foul line.

I was amazed to see the Wolves’ side of the box score for that game. The starting five: KG, Wally Szczerbiak (who had one of the best individual tournaments in recent memory as he lead Miami of Ohio to the Sweet Sixteen in the 1999 NCAA tournament), Sam Cassell (forever a cult hero in Houston as a key piece of the 1994 and 1995 NBA championship teams – his first two years in the league), Latrell Sprewell (2004-2005 was his last season in the NBA; he never played another game after famously balking during pre-season negotiations with the club over a contract extension), and Michael Olowokandi (the first overall pick in the 1998 draft – the worst top pick ever?).

Minnesota reserves who appeared against the Suns included noted dancer and fashion plate Mark Madsen, the tragically departed Eddie Griffin, and Fred Hoiberg, a three-point specialist who is currently the head coach of the Iowa State Cyclones. Hoiberg holds the Wolves’ records for highest career three-point shooting percentage (46.1%) and single-season three-point percentage (48.3% in 2004-2005 – his final NBA season).

For all that talent, the Wolves missed the 2005 playoffs after advancing to the Western Conference Finals in 2004. I bet they had fun plane rides, though.

In all seriousness, it will bear watching to see whether Love, who recently re-upped with the team, will eclipse Kevin Garnett as the player most identified with the Timberwolves franchise, or whether he will decide to move on to warmer climes when the time comes.

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