Video by CJ Fogler
Kevin Love sounds exhausted, and it’s hard to blame him.
After all, he’s played 2,400 minutes so far this season, second-most in his career, and once again he’s going to miss the playoffs. That’s 11,544 minutes or 192 hours of hard-fought NBA basketball that have largely been fruitless by the standards we generally set for athletes. After every game, the same questions are asked, the same answers are given. Repetition is wearisome, and Love sounds tired of saying the same thing.
Last night’s 109-92 loss to Memphis wasn’t repetitious in one way — Love played poorly. In a season where he has a PER of 27.9 with 26.5 points per game and 12.7 rebounds, games like last night (16 points, 6-for-18 from the field) aren’t common. But as Love himself said, everyone is entitled to a bad game once in a while.
Also not the problem: Rookie Gorgui Dieng, who scored 11 points and pulled down 17 rebounds, seven of which were offensive. Dieng is showing encouraging flashes thus far, both as a rebounder and as a rim protector, and if there’s anything to be encouraged by apart from Love this year, it’s the play of the rookies.
But when Love struggles, the rest of the team has shown consistently that they aren’t productive enough to pick up his slack. The same was true last night: Kevin Martin had 13 points on 13 field goal attempts, Ricky Rubio was 1-for-8 from the field, and the bench scored 32 points on 31 shots. The problem isn’t that Kevin Love doesn’t score enough, or that he isn’t good enough to get into the playoffs. He’s incredible. The problem is that, once again, his supporting cast just isn’t good enough to get the job done.
Defensively, the Wolves struggled both with Marc Gasol’s size and Mike Conley’s pick-and-roll game. Conley carved up Minnesota for 23 points and six assists, while Gasol scored just 14 points in 27 minutes but sucked the defense to himself, which opened up things for his teammates.
“How do you play like your season isn’t over?”
When Love was asked this question, he paused a full five seconds before answering, presumably gathering his thoughts. How does one play like one’s season isn’t over when — once again, for the sixth consecutive year — the postseason has slipped away? It can’t be an easy question for an athlete to consider, let alone answer to a pack of reporters who would love to get the page views associated with any “Kevin Love is leaving” story.
“A lot can happen in 13 games,” Love finally responded. “We just want to go out and win as many as we can and just be satisfied with the season.”
A lot can happen in 13 games. Win as many as we can. Be satisfied with the season. Once weariness has set in, even giving well-worn answers to overused questions can be tiring.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.