The TrailBlazers have been a consistent, constant problem in the Wolves’ hair over the last five years. They’ve never been great enough to jump over the wall that is the top four seeds in the Western Conference playoffs, but always good enough to diminish anything that the Timberwolves have thrown at them in that timeframe.
But nothing was going to stop Kevin Love from having a monster game in his home state in front of his parents’ eyes, not even the Blazers.
Last night was Love vs. Aldridge, a matchup of two of the NBA’s best power forwards that always seems to compare to a classic clash of the titans. You can chalk a tally into Love’s column after this one. Love led the way for the hot-handed Timberwolves tonight, scoring 42 points along with 10 rebounds. The exclamation point: five three-pointers from Senor Amor. Love’s threes haven’t been falling nearly as much this season compared to last. That three-point contest trophy must be staring Love straight in the face saying, “Now it’s time to hit the big ones … During games.”
Although Love’s outside shot that was falling last night, it was his post game that was so effective. Even against the taller, more athletic LaMarcus Aldridge, Love was able to use his body strength and positioning to at least get a look off but then, more importantly, held his ground for the easy put-back. Too worried about hitting outside shots, that part of Love’s game has been straggling for the past few weeks, so hopefully he’ll begin to get a better feel for it in the upcoming weeks.
Now, the Wolves don’t often have the firepower to withstand back-and-forth blows like they did with the Blazers. Usually going toe-to-toe like that on the offensive end doesn’t bode well. But last night Love kept his foot on the gas, while supporting roles filled in their spots. Coming up big behind Love was Martell Webster. The last two weeks, Webster has started to come into form with the extra playing time. Perhaps the dunk oops in Denver cleared his mind? Regardless, Webster has found his shooting stroke to pair with his on-court leadership and i.q. Being back in Portland sparked Webster to play to his potential — one that was so high since being drafted out of high school to Portland with the sixth pick in 2005. His offensive burst gave the Wolves a two-dimensional offense — inside and out — to pair nicely with Love’s huge night. More of that is wanted, not only from the Wolves, but also Webster himself; it’s all about the confidence.
We’re starting to see a pattern from the Wolves in the last two big wins in LA and last night. Whenever the bench outperforms the opposition’s, the Wolves’ chances of winning increase exponentially. In LA, it was Derrick Williams and Michael Beasley, combining for 54 points in quite the efficient manner — believe it or not. Last night, it was Webster and Williams who jolted the Wolves offense with calculated shots and big points. Ricky Rubio, although he couldn’t find a way to get his shot down — again — still contributed with 12 assists — which actually led to a ridiculous amount of points for Love — as well as two steals, showing he wasn’t completely withdrawn from the game.
For the Wolves, because they’ve already exhausted their star players for minutes, are going to need more collective efforts from the entire team. 40-point scoring nights from Love won’t hurt but they’re not very likely to happen on a regular basis. It still goes to prove that Love is this team’s leader, no matter what anyone says about Rubio and what he brings to the table, and he’ll go as far as the earth to prove he is.
Next up are the Clippers again at home on Monday. So the West coast trip continues — as does Love’s battle with the NBA’s best at power forward — only this time with a much-needed home court advantage.