SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — After Kevin Love hit back-to-back 3-pointers again, Enes Kanter put his hands out to his side and said, “What can I do?”
No one in the NBA seems to have an answer.
Love continued his torrid pace with 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for his first career triple-double to help the Minnesota Timberwolves cruise past the Utah Jazz 121-104 Saturday night.
“I thought at some point it would happen. I’ve been very close. Happy it was tonight and more happy we got the win,” Love said of achieving the triple-double. “This is one I’ll definitely remember.”
Minnesota was again playing without starters Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (finger), but Love filled the void, keeping one step ahead of the Jazz through the game. He compiled all his statistics in 32 minutes to earn a spot on the bench for the final nine minutes of the Wolves’ third runaway win against the Jazz this season.
“Kevin Love was unbelievable. He’s incredible,” Minnesota coach Rick Adelman said. “To get a triple-double in three quarters, that’s pretty darn good.”
Ricky Rubio had 15 points, and Corey Brewer and Chase Budinger scored 13 apiece as the Wolves won their third straight for just their third streak of three-plus victories.
“It’s fun to play with him,” Rubio said of Love.
Kanter couldn’t stop Love, but had success against him on the offensive end, scoring 25 points for the Jazz, who dropped their third in a row after a season-best three-game win streak. Kanter didn’t get much help.
Trey Burke had 16 points on 7-of-19 shooting and Alec Burks added 15 for the Jazz, who played without starting center Derrick Favors. Utah dropped to 0-9 without the defensive-minded Favors in the lineup and the Jazz allowed the Wolves to shoot 51 percent.
A lot of that also had to do with Love, who often ignited fast breaks with long outlet passes and crafty feeds around the perimeter. When the Jazz didn’t run another player at him, Love made a bevy of outside shots as well as his regular quota of post moves and put-backs.
Love was 6 of 10 from beyond the arc and committed just one turnover. He is averaging more than 33 points and 15 rebounds over his last nine contests and this effort marked his fourth straight 30-plus point game, tying Kevin Garnett’s franchise record.
“He made some crazy shots. He plays with his heart, and he plays hard,” Kanter said.
Even without Pekovic, the Timberwolves outrebounded the Jazz 49-34 and had 24 fast-break points to Utah’s 13.
After leading Minnesota a 59-49 lead at halftime, Love hit consecutive 3-pointers and scored eight points in a 10-3 run for a 69-52 advantage that left Utah post defenders shaking their heads.
Another pair of 3-pointers from Love later in the third quarter stretched the lead to 85-64. Love had 22 points in the third period alone.
“The third quarter was incredible. A tremendous effort, especially with how short-handed we were,” Adelman marveled.
The Wolves still need to make up five games to reach the playoffs in the deep Western Conference, but they have started their charge without their second- and third-leading scorers. Martin (19.0 points) has been sidelined for five games with a non-displaced fracture in his left thumb and Pekovic (18.0 points) has sat out the last 11 due to right ankle bursitis.
Love — whose 46 double-doubles lead the league — was the perfect passer for the Wolves’ fast-breaking strategy against the Jazz. Minnesota released whoever was defending a perimeter jump shooter for easy layups on the other end after Love found them with one-handed passes.
“My parents never let me play football. It was my way of being a quarterback out there,” Love said.
Love registered his career-best 10th assist when he grabbed a defensive rebound and let fly a three-quarter-court pass to Brewer, who had outrun the defense and got a layup.
“I was glad it was Brew for the 10th assist. It was fitting that it came in an outlet pass,” Love said.
NOTES: Pekovic practiced Friday and worked out hard Saturday and may be ready to return to the court in the next couple games. … Utah’s backcourt trio of Burke, Burks and Gordon Hayward shot a combined 9 of 40. … The Jazz shot 16 percent from beyond the arc. … Minnesota beat Utah 98-72 on Jan. 18 and won 112-97 on Jan. 21. . First time Wolves have had three players with seven or more assists (Rubio and Barea had seven each) in the same game since Mar. 4, 2007 at Boston.
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