By Joe Boozell, NBA.com
Kevin Love is a fantasy hoops owner’s dream and an opposing NBA coach’s worst nightmare rolled into one — routinely torching foes with monster performances from a statistical perspective. Love trailed only Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James in scoring with 26.1 points per game last year, all while finishing third in the league in rebounding and win shares. That explains why the former UCLA Bruin has been the the focal point of trade rumors all offseason — a stretch power forward as dynamic as Love in today’s NBA three-point frenzy is a more valuable commodity than ever.
Believe it or not, these numbers were not taken from the “Association Mode” of a video game — they happened in real life. Here are Kevin Love’s top 10 stat lines of 2013-14.
10. April 13, 2014 vs. Sacramento Kings – 43 points (12-for-23 FG, 4-for-9 3PT FGA) and 11 rebounds
A recurring theme with these astounding stat lines is the staggering amount that came in Timberwolves losses, which might explain why Love reportedly wants out of Minnesota. Either way, when a 40-plus point and 10-plus rebound night barely cracks your best performances of the year, you’re doing something right. Love ultimately went toe-to-toe with DeMarcus Cousins in this April bout, with Boogie prevailing and notching 35 points and 16 rips. But it wasn’t due to a lack of effort from Love – the sharpshooting big man scored 30 of his game-high 43 points in the second half for Minnesota.
9. April 2, 2014 vs. Memphis Grizzlies – 24 points (9-for-15 FG), 16 rebounds and 10 assists
Love’s triple-double was a relatively odd performance by his standards. Sure, his 24 points and 16 rebounds were business as usual. And his 10 assists, while a substantial increase from his season average of 4.4, didn’t exactly defy status quo for the mutli-talented star. But Love is often maligned by critics for his defense – or lack thereof, to put it kindly. On this night against the Grizzlies, however, Memphis southpaw Zach Randolph made just one of his eight shot attempts and finished the game with four points. Love split time guarding Randolph with rookie center Gorgui Dieng, but regardless, it was one of the most complete games Love played in 2013-14.
8. February 25, 2014 vs. Phoenix Suns – 33 points, 13 rebounds and nine assists
Love fell one assist short of posting his second triple-double in three games against Phoenix, as the Timberwolves outscored the Suns 35-20 in the fourth quarter to cruise to a 110-101 victory. Minnesota was brutal all year in close games, so Love took matters into his own hands by sinking a huge three-pointer with a minute to go to put the game out of reach for the Suns. Rookie Shabazz Muhammad scored a career-high 20 points for the Timberwolves, who searched all season long to put the right pieces around Love in late game situations.
7. March 23, 2014 vs. Phoenix Suns – 36 points , 14 rebounds and nine assists
Poor Phoenix. Well, sort of – the Suns ultimately had the last laugh, using a fourth quarter rally to knock off the Timberwolves 127-120. But that wasn’t without a typically brilliant performance from Love, whose 36 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists were all game highs. Once again, No. 42 landed one assist shy of a triple-double, but a crucial turnover in the final seconds of the contest proved to be key in a Suns victory. At the time, Phoenix and Minnesota were both in the hunt for the eighth seed in the loaded Western Conference, which both teams eventually failed to seize.
6. February 19, 2014 vs. Indiana Pacers – 42 points (14-for-22 FG, 5-for-10 3PT FGA) and 16 rebounds
February is the month of love, and bad puns aside, Kevin really was marvelous in the month of the Valentine. The Minnesota big man averaged 34 points and 14.1 rebounds over the eleven game span, and one of his best performances came against the Indiana Pacers. Fellow all star Paul George had a fine night of his own, scoring 35 points and snaring 11 rebounds, but the Timberwolves took it to the reeling Pacers to score a 104-91 win at the Target Center. It was Love’s eighth straight game with at least 25 points and 10 rebounds, good for the longest streak since Shaquille O’Neal accomplished the same feat in January of 2005.
5. December 13, 2013 vs. San Antonio Spurs – 42 points (15-for-27 FG, 8-for-9 3PT FGA) and 14 rebounds
If ever there were a reminder that team performances are far more important than individual ones, this was it. Love put on a shooting clinic, draining eight of nine shots from distance and did everything humanly possible to knock off the Western Conference champion Spurs. But San Antonio would have none of it, as Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili combined for 49 points en route to a 117-110 victory. Though the Timberwolves came up short, Love scored 19 points in the third quarter alone and sank five of his eight three-pointers in the period.
4. February 22, 2014 vs. Utah Jazz – 37 points (11-for-20 FG, 6-for-10 3PT FGA), 12 rebounds and 10 assists
The mainstream numbers are eye-popping as usual – 37 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists are nothing to scoff at. But Love was also a game-high plus-23 against the Jazz, proving how important he really is to everything the Timberwolves do. Oh, and he did this all in just 33 minutes of action and with fellow starters Kevin Martin and Nikola Pekovic sidelined with injuries. In the midst of an incredible month of February, this game was Love’s fourth consecutive outing of scoring at least 30 points. That mark tied a franchise record (which Love would go on to break) set by some guy you may have heard of before: Kevin Garnett.
3. April 14, 2014 vs. Golden State Warriors – 40 points (6-for-11 3PT FGA), 14 rebounds and nine assists
Love and Stephen Curry are two of the most explosive offensive players the league has seen in recent memory, and this game was as entertaining of a show as advertised. In a game that saw 150 points scored, Curry and Love combined for 72 of those. Love once again fell a mere assist short of a triple-double, and his Timberwolves lost to the playoff bound Dubs by a final score of 130-120. But Golden State has been in the middle of all Love rumors in the historic 2014 NBA offseason, and judging by this huge performance, it’s fair to say they were enamored with what they saw.
2. February 1, 2014 vs. Atlanta Hawks – 43 points (12-for-22 FG, 17-for-18 FT) and 19 rebounds
Love’s outstanding February started on the first of the month against the Hawks, as he was incredibly efficient in scoring 43 points on just 22 shot attempts. Making 17 of 18 free throw attempts certainly aided the cause in finishing just two points short of his season high. He also scored 21 points in the game’s final stanza, leading an admirable comeback attempt that fell short in a 120-113 loss to Atlanta. Love battled a sore ankle throughout the contest but still managed to muster a spectacular effort.
Two of the top power forwards in the sport went head-to-head on this December night at the Staples Center, and while Love put up the more gaudy numbers, Blake Griffin and the Clippers prevailed by a score of 120-116 in overtime. The 45 points were a season high for Love, and his 19 boards tied a season high. His performance landed him in some pretty good company – he is the fourth player in the last 40 seasons to register at least 45 points, 19 rebounds and six assists in a game. The last person to do it? Hakeem Olajuwan, who posted 46 points, 19 rebounds and eight assists in a game in March of 1996.