CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kevin Love is playing so well this month he’s beginning to garner MVP consideration.
And rightfully so.
Sure, the Minnesota Timberwolves might be on the outside looking in when it comes to the playoff picture, but Love’s numbers are getting harder and harder to ignore.
Love had 40 points and 19 rebounds Wednesday night to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves to an 88-83 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.
It was Love’s third-highest point total in March, and pushed his scoring average in 15 games in the month to 31.2.
Love has scored at least 20 points in 14 of his last 15 games and has 44 double-doubles on the season, including nine straight games.
Before the game, Bobcats coach Paul Silas said Love without question should be considered an MVP candidate and his opinion didn’t change after he dominated his young big men Bismack Biyombo and Byron Mullens.
“If he continues to do what he’s doing for a good portion of his career he’s going to be one of the best ever,” Silas said. “He’s just tenacious. That ball goes up and he’s there. And he’s strong… The young boys we have are not ready for that. So that makes it difficult.”
As for all of the MVP talk, Love said, “In some ways it’s warranted, but we need to win a lot more games in order to be anywhere close to that.”
Love said he feels like he’s worked hard on his conditioning to get where he is and he’s in a good groove when it comes to shooting the ball.
“I’m not stopping,” Love said. “I’m continuing to get better.”
Love got some needed help against the Bobcats.
Point guard Luke Ridnour had a season-high 14 assists and added 15 points for Minnesota, fighting to get into playoff contention in the Western Conference. Forward Anthony Tolliver added his first double-double of the season as well, with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
But Love was the key.
The Timberwolves led 68-65 entering the fourth quarter when Love hit back-to-back 3-pointers to quickly push the lead to nine. A short while later, he faked a low post move to the middle and spun past Byron Mullens for an easy basket.
Love scored 11 of Minnesota’s first 13 points in the fourth quarter.
Love, who lead the league in minutes played, played the entire second half and converted 14 of 31 field goals for the game, including 4 of 6 from 3-point range.
“The only one that could slow him down was Najera,” Silas said. “They guy played 43 minutes and that’s a lot of time. But they needed to win. They played him and he got the win for them.”
“He’s just playing at a high level,” said Minnesota coach Rick Adelman. “His concentration is at a high level. He’s been spectacular. What else can you say?”
The Bobcats trailed by nine late in the first quarter, but closed the half with a 20-9 run to take a 47-45 lead into the locker room after getting a big lift off the bench from rookie Kemba Walker and veteran Eduardo Najera.
The Bobcats held Love without a point during that span.
But there was no stopping Love in the second half as he scored 26 points. Love scored 14 points in the fourth quarter and the Timberwolves (25-27) led the entire second half to win a game they had to have.
Love scored in almost every way imaginable, hitting from the outside, driving to the hole, making great low post moves and putting back missed shots by teammates.
“I think his activity is what sets him apart,” Adelman said. “Luke missed that jumper down the stretch there and he followed it up, had the point guard on him and he got the offensive board and put it in. Those are just hustle plays. That’s what he’s been doing.”
Silas said if Love continues to play like he has for the rest of his career that “he’s going to be one of the best ever.”
“You just don’t see anybody in this league who can score the way he scores and rebound the way he rebounds,” Silas said. “You have to keep an eye on him all of the time. When the ball goes up you have to find him.”
Corey Maggette had 22 points, and Kemba Walker added 20 for the Bobcats (7-41), who remain the only NBA team with fewer than 10 wins this season.
NOTES: Charlotte’s backups outscored its starters the last two games — getting 59 points against the Boston Celtics and 49 against the New Jersey Nets — but only got 26 against the Timberwolves. … Silas said afterward he’s worried about the play of point guard D.J. Augustin, who has missed 21 of his last 26 shots from the field and failed to score against Minnesota.
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