Key Matchup: Kevin Love vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

Key Matchup: Kevin Love vs. LaMarcus Aldridge

Of all the intriguing matchups between the Wolves and Trail Blazers, Wednesday night's showdown between Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge at power forward tops the list. (Photo credit: NBAE/Getty Images)

Tonight at Target Center, the two power forwards with arguably the best statistical seasons to date will match up head-to-head for the first time this season. Kevin Love and LaMarcus Aldridge, each of whom already have two All-Star Appearances under their belts, are having career years. They’re each leading their teams in scoring and rebounding, and while they impact the game in different ways they certainly have similar productivity on the court.

As we near the end of December, both Love and Aldridge are No. 1 and 2, respectively, in scoring among power forwards in the league. They’ve combined to win four of the seven Western Conference Player of the Week honors this year (Aldridge 3, Love 1), and both are in the top 10 league-wide in Player Efficiency Rating. Of all the intriguing matchups that come to mind out of this Wolves vs. Blazers meeting—including Ricky Rubio and Damian Lillard at point guard and, if healthy, Kevin Martin and Wes Matthews at shooting guard–this power forward showdown is the main event.

As we get set for tomorrow night’s game at Target Center (tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Fox Sports North and 830 WCCO-AM),’s Mark Remme and Kyle Ratke take a look at each one of these players and why they have been so successful this season.

Kevin Love

After missing the majority of last season due mostly to a hand injury, fans weren’t sure what to expect out of All-Star power forward Kevin Love.

Well, the former UCLA star was pretty quick to answer those questions, starting the season with eight double-doubles and getting his name thrown into All-Star and MVP talk.

The only thing that’s pumping the brakes on the MVP-talk front is that his Wolves are 12-13 and 2.5 games out of the playoff hunt. That makes one wonder where the Wolves would be without Love, though.

Love entered the league as a self-proclaimed “chubby” player who was one-dimensional. Now? Love can score (25 points per game), rebound (13.6 rebounds per game), pass (4.0 assists per game, career-high and third among power forwards). Love is also hitting 2.5 3-pointers per game, 10th in the league and second among power forwards. He’s hitting 37.8 percent of his shots from deep, which ranks second in his career to the 2010-11 season when he hit 41.7 percent of his shots. That season, he hit 88 3-pointers. He’s hit 55 already this season.

What is most impressive about Love’s game is how he does those things. If you take a look at Love’s shot chart, he doesn’t really shoot from spots that he struggles from. Of his 445 shots this season, less than 25 percent of those shots come from where he shoots “below league average.”

If it seems like Love has been putting up historic numbers this season, that’s because he has.

Love has five 25-point/15-rebound/5-assist games this season. As of Tuesday night, the rest of the NBA has combined for zero such games. Since the 1985-86 season, only seven players have recorded more games like that, and let’s not forget that Love is about a quarter of the way through the season.

All of these numbers have occurred when Love and the Wolves played 18 games in the first month of the season and the Wolves have already played seven back-to-backs. In other words, there hasn’t been a lot of rest for the Wolves.

Those questioning what Love means to the Wolves should look no further than to Alan Shipnuck’s recent Sports Illustrated article, where he breaks down Love’s Nov. 8 game against the Dallas Mavericks.

In the article, Dallas forward Dirk Nowitzki, a future Hall of Famer, said Love was “way beyond where I was when I was 25.”

That’s saying something.

Wednesday night’s matchup between two of the league’s best power forwards should be a good one. NBA enthusiasts outside of the Minneapolis region should have their eyes on this one.

LaMarcus Aldridge

The Trail Blazers have a bevy of talented scorers and producers in their starting lineup ranging from Damian Lillard to Wes Matthews to Nicolas Batum. But it is LaMarcus Aldridge that has become the main beneficiary and has gotten the most looks within this offense this year as Portland continues to roll—the Blazers enter Wednesday’s matchup with a 21-4 record, tops in the Western Conference. It’s a big reason why Aldridge is being considered around the Pacific Northwest as an early MVP candidate. Aldridge currently leads the NBA in field goals (242) and field goal attempts (499), and on his own team he’s put up 111 more shots than Lillard’s second-place total. Portland is an incredibly talented 3-point shooting team that currently has three starters shooting better than 40 percent from beyond the arc. That impressive shooting from the outside has created open space for Aldridge to muscle his way around the paint, and he’s been able to deliver time and time again.

Aldridge is currently fifth in the league in total points scored and is second only to Love among all NBA power forwards with 23.5 points per game. he’s shooting 48.5 percent from the field, including 57 percent from inside eight feet. He’s pretty effective by league standards with his 16-24 foot midrange shots, including 58.2 percent (32-of-55) from the left baseline and 63.6 percent (7-of-11) from the right baseline. Unlike Love, Aldridge does not venture outside the arc—he’s 0-for-2 from 3-point range this year. But at 6-foot-11 and 240 pounds, he takes up space inside and couples that with a scorer’s touch. From that midrange area, he’s become very good at backing down his opponent and either hitting turnaround jumpers or spinning and attacking the basket. He has three 30-point games this year, including a 31-point, 25-rebound effort against the Rockets on Dec. 12 and a 30-point, 21-rebound performance at Golden State on Nov. 23. According to, his 30/25 game was the first in the NBA since Love’s 31/31 game in November 2010. During the Blazers’ 11-game winning streak earlier this year, he produced seven 20-point games and seven double-doubles.

Aside from his scoring, Aldridge is a strong rebounder. His 10.9 boards per game puts him fifth in the NBA in that category, and his 14 double-doubles put him sixth in the league. Aldridge is averaging 2.7 assists per game, which is fourth on the team and first among non-perimeter players. he also adds 1.2 steals per game and 0.9 blocks per night.

Like Love, Aldridge plays significant minutes each night—he’s averaging 36.8 per game. That means these two should see a pretty significant number of minutes head-to-head on Wednesday night. This matchup between the Wolves and Blazers should have enough intriguing storylines on its own. But with these two power forwards playing at the top of their games, we could be in for a treat on Wednesday night at Target Center.

For more news and notes on the team follow the Minnesota Timberwolves and Mark Remme on Twitter.