A tale of two Kevins: Timberwolves down Mavs 116-108

There were two main things that determined tonight’s outcome: 1) Both teams making runs and 2) the abilities of the Kevins Love and Martin to lift the Timberwolves over the Mavericks at home.

Essentially, each team traded runs, but it was Kevin Martin’s three with 5:03 left in the third to put the Timberwolves up by 11 that put them in control of this game. Jose Calderon hit a pair of threes and Jae Crowder hit a layup to bring the Mavs back within three. In the third with the Mavericks threatening, Martin again rose to the occasion, hitting a 20-footer and then sinking two free throws later to put the Timberwolves up 89-83 early in the fourth quarter. However, Dallas would manage to stay close, keeping their deficit within three before Love hit a huge three pointer with 2:12 left and the Timberwolves never looked back.

Jose Calderon and Monta Ellis led the  way for the Mavs. Calderon added 21 points and seven assists, while Ellis added 23 points on 24 shots. Dirk Nowitzki added 14 points in 31 minutes on top of that. For the Timberwolves, Corey Brewer put up 17 points, three rebounds and four assists and Martin finished with 32 points and five boards. Ricky Rubio’s six points, four assists and three rebounds may not have stood out, but his three steals made an impact on the defensive end.

However, the real star of the game was Kevin Love, who was threatening to put up his first NBA triple-double in the first half. Seriously, 15-10-7 at halftime? Just unbelievable.

Coach Rick Adelman spoke this offseason about how he wanted to see Love be more of a facilitator than he had been in his career, and now we’re seeing it, and the Timberwolves are reaping the benefits. Love has now dished out five or more assists in a game in four consecutive games, the longest streak of his career. Adelman’s vision was for Love to not only expand his game, but to make his teammates better and we’re seeing that. Whether it’s rifling a cross-court outlet pass to a streaking Brewer or his pass from the high post to Derrick Williams making a backdoor cut to the basket. And when you have two of your best players, the other being Ricky Rubio, being so willing to pass it’s infectious– the Timberwolves had four players finish with four or more assists last night (Barea and Brewer being the other two).

By increasing his assist totals, Love has not had to sacrifice the other aspects of his game. Love is still scoring at 27.2 ppg and leading the league in rebounding yet again with 14.7 per game. Now in his sixth season, Love’s assists per game average would be twice as high as his previous career high of 2.5 without having to compromise any other area of production. If this sustains itself over the course of the season, Love will not only have established himself as a more complete player, but cement his status as the best power forward in the game. Oh, and he’s only 25, so he will likely continue to improve as he moves towards 30.

Love’s 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists was his second game of the season with at least 30-15-5, while the rest of the league has none. In fact, since entering the league in the 2008-09 season, Love has the most 30-15-5 games in that time while also essentially missing last season. Tonight a few of Love’s teammates had some big games, but Love was pivotal in helping making plays for them. Not to take anything away from Brewer or Martin, but Love played the role of facilitator to near-perfection last night.

Now, the Timberwolves stand at 4-2 after snapping  their two-game losing streak and begin a road back-to-back in Los Angeles against the Lakers and Clippers beginning Sunday.

Webster and Flynn's return gets spoiled; Wolves lose to Warriors 108-99

Golden State Warriors' Monta Ellis, left drives past Minnesota Timberwolves' Corey Brewer during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2010 in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo)

Monta Ellis doesn't need Stephen Curry

Those Warriors are pesky. Just when you think the Wolves had them backed into a corner with no escape route, they hop aboard the Monta Ellis-express and sail their way to a smooth victory.

What should’ve been the story of the night — Martell Webster and Jonny Flynn shine in their game back from injuries and lead the Wolves to a victory — was toiled thanks to magnificent play from Ellis and terrific three-point shooting from the Warriors.

The Wolves came out of the gates firing on all cylinders, which seems to be the case in recent games. Lately they just find a groove in the first quarter that doesn’t seem comparable, making them run away with the score. Darko Milicic was hot and Mike Beasley was firing on all cylinders, especially from mid-range. This continued all the way into the second quarter, where the Wolves actually took hold of a commanding 12-point lead. It seemed unsurmountable at the time, but you never count out a team that has Ellis, a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve and let’s his game do all the talking for him.

Ellis took charge and led the Warriors back into the game igniting a 12-2 run late in the second. And he didn’t stop there. With the scored tied at 51, Ellis hesitated at the perimeter with the ball in his hands and unleashed a 26-foot bomb with no doubt in his mind — as well as mine — that it would go in. Swoosh, and the Wolves lose their lead going into halftime.

From there, things didn’t get much better. Ellis continued his valiant effort and even got his teammates involved, most notably Reggie Williams. They started firing, and hitting, the three-pointer at will and the Wolves’ defense grew tired and porous as a result. Once the defense was spread out enough, Ellis started beating them off the dribble, slicing through the defense like a knife through butter and attacking the hoop with animosity like he had been all game long.

Ellis was essentially unstoppable tonight. He really is one of my favorite players in the league and probably my favorite to watch play live because of how creative he is and the energy he devotes to a game. The combination of his superior strength and freakishly athletic abilities was too much too handle, especially when he had poor Luke Ridnour guarding him all night. Ridnour was out-matched all night long and paid the price for it. He became frustrated on the offensive end throwing up unneeded shots and only made one out of nine of them. His assist total — 11 for the night — was impressive but it doesn’t make up for what he lost shooting the ball wildly and inefficiently. He honestly just looked like a lost puppy out there looking for someone to pick his ass up and cuddle him.

Kevin Love had a subpar performance, one of the firsts in a very long time. He still got his double-double recording 13-14 but got his 13 points off of a dismal 33 percent FG%. His now infamous three-point shot was contested nicely by the Warriors D as he failed to knock one down, and couldn’t get anything going inside thanks to some tough love on the inside on the part of the Warriors front line and the refereeing crew.

All in all this just wasn’t our night. I was, however, impressed with Jonny Flynn and Martell Webster in their return back to game action. Flynn didn’t do a whole lot, but you couldn’t help but cheer for the guy when he was on the court. After he hit his first three-pointer, he simply jogged back down the court with that smile from ear-to-ear that so many fans have fallen infatuated with. As for Webster, he couldn’t have done anything wrong tonight, in my eyes. He plays like that well-seasoned veteran we need because it seems as if he does everything right, or at least he did tonight. Like I said earlier today, if he keeps these kinds of performances up, we might see Wes Johnson fall into a reserve role as Webster moves into the starting lineup. It could ultimately benefit the team as a whole in the future.

The Wolves continue their road trip tomorrow night with a game at Phoenix, and the tumultuous road trip doesn’t end there: The T-Pups will then head to Portland, Denver and L.A. shortly after that. For a team that’s only won one game so far on the road this season, you can consider this stretch a real test of patience, will and determination.