MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Kevin Love has always been able to pile up the points and the rebounds at a rate that few in the NBA can match.
Now that he’s hitting streaking teammates with pin-point passes for easy layups, Love is asserting himself as one of the true superstars in the league.
Love had 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists to lead the Timberwolves to a 116-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Friday night.
Six of Love’s assists came in a sensational first quarter, and he connected with Corey Brewer on three length-of-the-court outlets to get the Timberwolves’ offense rolling.
“The guy can throw a chest pass 100 yards,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “He should be an NFL quarterback and he can throw chest passes to the receivers.”
Kevin Martin added 32 points and five rebounds and Corey Brewer scored 17 points to help the Timberwolves snap a two-game skid.
“Eight assists, I think, was great,” Love said. “Guys were just cutting and I was leading them, whether it was in the half court or hitting them on the fast break.”
Jose Calderon made 6 of 8 3-pointers and scored 21 points for the Mavericks. Monta Ellis scored 23 points and Dirk Nowitzki added 14 for Dallas. The Mavericks played without trusted reserve Vince Carter, who was suspended for the game for elbowing Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams on Wednesday.
The Wolves led by 11 in the third and eight with less than 4:30 to play, and had to hold their breath down the stretch. Calderon hit his sixth 3 of the night and Ellis scored on a drive to the bucket to make it 105-102 Minnesota with 2:24 to go.
Love, who just missed his first triple-double of his career, hit a 3 on the other end, Ricky Rubio foiled Ellis’s drive to the basket and Love sealed it with a 17-foot Nowitzki-style fade-away on the baseline with 1:13 to play.
“That’s why he gets paid the big bucks,” coach Rick Adelman said.
Nikola Pekovic had 15 points and six rebounds for Minnesota.
Jae Crowder had 10 points and six rebounds for Dallas.
The new-look Mavericks have been one of the best offensive teams in the league, with Ellis and Calderon making a seamless transition and flourishing as role players surrounding Nowitzki. Ellis has been remarkably efficient in comparison to his volume shooting ways with the Warriors and Bucks, entering the game shooting 55 percent on 2-pointers.
That efficiency wasn’t there on Friday night as Ellis needed 24 shots to score 23 points.
“We couldn’t get a stop,” Calderon said. “But it wasn’t just the last three or four minutes, it was kind of the full fourth quarter we were just trading baskets with them. We couldn’t get two in a row or three in a row.”
The Wolves appeared to be taking control midway through the third quarter with a 16-4 surge that put them in front by 11. But the Mavericks came right back, getting two 3s from Calderon and another from Ellis during a 13-3 run that cut the deficit to one point.
For much of the game, Love was the Timberwolves’ best passer, even with Rubio on the floor. He hit Brewer for several home run passes and racked up six assists in an outstanding first quarter. He also had nine points and six rebounds in the period.
Rubio had six points on 2-for-8 shooting and four assists and he was bottled up for most of the night by Spanish countrymen Calderon, who didn’t fall for the sleight of hand that Rubio uses to keep defenders off balance.
Calderon also had seven assists and four rebounds.
“Things didn’t go our way tonight,” Crowder said. “I don’t think it was too much what they were doing. We knew exactly what they were going to do. Of course their offense was rolling tonight, and we didn’t get stops when we need to.”
NOTES: Carter said at shootaround that he wished he could take the elbow to Adams back, but couldn’t and felt bad for putting his team in the position of not having him available for the game. … Timberwolves F Derrick Williams did not play because of back spasms. … Robbie Hummel made his NBA debut for the Timberwolves, scoring two points in 11 minutes.
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