Triple-Double Is Kevin Love's Latest Impressive Feat
Rick Adelman’s seen a lot of big games from Kevin Love in his 2 ½ seasons coaching the Timberwolves—so many that it’s hard to pinpoint any one as being the most efficient, the best all-around or the most memorable.
But it’s hard to argue that if you’re putting together a top five list, Love’s 37-point, 12-rebound, 10-assists effort as he collected his first career triple-double in a 121-104 win over the Utah Jazz at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday night.
“I don’t know if it’s his most complete, but he certainly dominated this game,” Adelman said. “He had 12 points at halftime, but that third quarter was incredible.”
That third quarter included 22 points and 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. He found his shooting rhythm, benefited from a nice all-around effort from his teammates and broke through for that elusive first triple-double.
He’s been close before—multiple times this season he finished with eight or nine assists to go along with his standard point-rebound double-double. He had 32 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists against Denver on Feb. 12. He had back-to-back games in January (one against Utah) in which he was two assists shy of a triple-double, he had 29 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists against Portland on Dec. 18 and he had 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists against Dallas on Nov. 8.
This time around, Love was well on his way to having a memorable game without the triple-double. He put up 30-plus points for a fourth straight game—tying Kevin Garnett’s franchise record—and the Wolves were on the fast track to their third straight win. But late in the third, needing one assist to reach the milestone for the first time in his career, Love seized the moment. He found Corey Brewer leaking out up court, hit him with the pass and let Brewer finish in his patented, unconventional way.
Fitting it was Brewer, since the two have connected so many times this year on outlet passes just like that one. And true to form, Brewer made it interesting by ducking under a defender and gingerly laying it in for two. He pointed back at Love immediately, not necessarily because he knew the magnitude of the situation—simply because the two continue to showcase a special connection on the court.
“It felt good,” Brewer said. “I was messing with him. I missed a dunk and I told him he might not get the triple-double tonight. But he ended up getting it, so it was good.”
Love wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“He’s made it [interesting] the whole year,” Love said of Brewer. “I said after the game it was fitting it was him, because there will be times when I’ll either lead him too much and it goes out of bounds or he’ll bobble it, but I’m just glad it was him for the 10th assist.”
Love’s triple-double came amid several milestones. His 37 points made him the highest-scoring Wolves player in a triple-double performance, passing Kevin Garnett’s 35 on Dec. 18, 2003 against Dallas. And he also tied Garnett for the most consecutive 30-point games in franchise history with four. Love’s nine straight games with 25 points and 10 rebounds is the most in a single season since Karl Malone did it 10 times in 1991-92. And he joins Vince Carter as the only players since the advent of the 3-point line in 1985-86 to record at least 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists while hitting at least six 3-pointers in a game.
So what does all this mean?
First off, Love is able to do things on the court we’ve rarely seen in the last generation of NBA play. It’s something the Wolves understand, even though they take it for granted sometimes.
“It’s unbelievable because he does it all the time sometimes we don’t realize how big it is,” guard Ricky Rubio said. “He puts up video game numbers, and it’s just fun to play with him.”
For Love, it takes a moment for him to fully grasp where this game fits into some of his other standout performances. His 31-point, 31-rebound game against the Knicks in 2011 was a game he views as a “welcome to the NBA” moment. His franchise-record 51 points against Oklahoma City in 2012 was a game that’s special, even in defeat, because it happened against close friends like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden.
“This was definitely different, but definitely one I’ll remember,” Love said.
His teammates and coaches will remember it, too.
“He was incredible. That third quarter was incredible,” Adelman said. “To get a triple-double in 3 quarters, that’s pretty darn good.”