Kevin Love, Kevin Martin developing into dynamic scoring duo
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MINNEAPOLIS -- When Kevin Love exited Friday night's game late in the fourth quarter, with a 116-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks in hand, a spattering of "MVP" chants followed him until he took his spot on the Timberwolves' bench.
Cheers about an accolade still months from being awarded elicit an expected chuckle, but in six games Love has done everything to be worthy of the praise.
Love, already averaging more than 26 points and 16 rebounds in five straight double-double games prior to tipoff, outdid himself again.
With the Wolves needing a pick-me-up after losing two straight games in dreary fashion, Love headlined the rejuvenation effort. Showing off a newfound facilitating touch, Love flirted with a near triple-double by putting up 32 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists.
But Love wasn't the only Kevin making waves for the Wolves, and that has how it has been this season. Kevin Martin matched Love point for point, with a 10-of-19 mark from the floor that propelled him to a 32-point output of his own. It was Martin's fourth straight night scoring 23 points or more.
The season is less than two weeks old -- a stretch in which the Wolves have traversed with a 4-2 advantage -- and already Love and Martin are showing a budding chemistry together that is helping anchor Rick Adelman's squad.
"He knows when to pick his spots," Love said of Martin. "He's a guy who plays great in the fourth quarter down the stretch. He's a shot-taker and a shot-maker for us, and I know he's going to be doing that all year for us."
If it wasn't one Kevin on Friday, it was the other.
The first quarter hadn't even come to a close yet and Love was already aimed directly at reaching double-digits in three spots -- nine points, six assists and six rebounds.
"That shows how special he is," Martin marvled afterward. "He puts up numbers so fast. It's incredible."
One after another, Love found swingman Corey Brewer streaking down court on the fastbreak to doll out an outlet pass. Five of Brewer's seven baskets came off assists from Love.
By halftime, he was outperforming his counterpart, Dirk Nowitzki, who was ultimately held to 14 points off 11 attempts. It was Love's passing instincts, not his scoring, that inspired a high level of awe Friday.
"He was really finding people," coach Rick Adelman said postgame, displaying an improved level of contentment with his team after two previous disgruntling performances. "He's the one big guy that we have that can do those things. The more we find guys cutting, the more they'll cut."
While Love stuck to his role as the Wolves' primary standout, Martin provided a perfect complement in the game's stretch run. Twenty-three of Martin's points came in the second half and was the difference-maker in keeping the Wolves pushing forward when the Mavericks tried to reclaim their slim halftime lead.
For all the flaws the Wolves may still have to work out, the luxury of having two players capable of going off for 30 points on any given night speaks to the dangers Minnesota could pose this season when clicking all together.
The Kevin duo's key moment took place as the game clock neared the two-minute mark. The Wolves were trying to stave off a return of some of the inconsistent tendencies that have harmed them early on this year, holding a narrow three-point lead on the Mavericks.
Martin and Love made sure Dallas was put away for good. Coming off a screen and assist from Martin, Love unfurled a three-pointer, his third of the night, that ultimately snuffed out the Mavericks' final push at a comeback.
Friday was a reminder for Martin why he chose to come to Minnesota as free agent in the offseason. Love's impact in nearly every facet mixed with Martin's pure scoring prowess, plus a solid supporting cast, was a combination the veteran guard couldn't resist.
So far it is playing out well in Martin's favor. It's a critical difference from the early stages of his 10-year career when he was one of the only reliable scoring options on Sacramento Kings teams of the mid-2000s.
"I used to play by myself and I was the only guy who could do that," Martin said of going off for 30 or more points. "After playing with Kevin and the rest of the guys who can score 30-plus, I wouldn't go to another team without a superstar. That's what I have in Kevin Love."
As the year goes on, Minnesota will need more production from the rest of its lineup, which shot a combined 19-of-49 (38.7 percent) from the floor against Dallas. But the increasing flow between Love and Martin is a positive sign of what is possible for the Wolves.