Kevin Love can't shake Kevin Garnett in Wolves' loss to Celtics
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MINNEAPOLIS -- So much for that debate.
In a game that had been billed as a battle between franchise-present against franchise-past, Kevin Garnett and the Boston Celtics physically manhandled Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves, 100-79 on Friday night in front of a sellout Target Center crowd.
Had this been the prize fight it was nearly billed as, the ref would have stopped it early, as the Wolves showed very little energy or desire.
"Just a game where we weren't going to win playing that way," coach Rick Adelman said.
Garnett outplayed Love in every facet of the game, putting up the kind of stat line that made him a local star years ago -- 24 points, 10 rebounds and four assists in 34 minutes, and defense that kept Love frustrated all night.
"He is very elite, top-notch defender," Love said. "He is a guy that you can put on Dwight Howard all the way to switching off against LeBron James and Kobe Bryant."
Love finished with 22 points and 11 rebounds, but he shot just 5 of 14 to Garnett's 12 of 18. Love was bottled up by Garnett whenever the two were on the court together and was never much of a factor.
"If you know anything about me, you know I'm more than ready and prepared tonight," Garnett said. "We minimized his shots and his threes. We already know how Kevin goes is how the Timberwolves go, so we knew if we slowed him down we had a good chance to pen up the game, and we did."
There was talk all week about whether Love had already surpassed Garnett as the best player in Timberwolves franchise history, but Garnett may have halted that conversation on Friday.
"I think KG took it personal tonight," Anthony Tolliver said. "I am sure he has been hearing a lot of stuff about Kevin Love being the best power forward in the league and everything else."
"One night doesn't really change anything, but he is a competitor. We knew he was coming in here and going to go straight at Kevin tonight and he had a great game."
The first quarter as a big sign of things to come for the Wolves. It was an ugly quarter where the more physical Celtics jumped out to a 31-20 lead and imposed their will early, out-muscling the timid Wolves.
"I can't explain why we came out and played the way we did," Adelman said, frustrated with his team's lack of energy.
Love shot 2 of 8 in the first quarter and didn't score his first basket until 2:58 left in the frame. Seven of his 22 points came in final three minutes of the quarter while Garnett was resting.
Garnett was playing the type of defense that has earned him nine Defensive All-NBA honors, legally grabbing and clutching Love every chance he got, frustrating the man who now patrols the arena he once called home.
"He has played like that his whole career so the refs let a lot of things go," Love said. "That is just the way Boston plays, physical team."
Added Adelman, "Kevin (Love) is going to find that teams are going to do that to him."
Garnett was as good offensively as he was defensively in a first half that Wolves were lucky to still be in the contest at all, trailing 56-45 in front of the fourth straight sellout crowd at Target Center. Garnett scored 12 of his 22 points in the first half while also grabbing five boards.
The Celtics punched first in the game and the Wolves had no counter in the second-half for the older, wiser, more physical Celtics turned the second-half into a glorified practice.
"They just came out and took it to us," Love said. "You can tell they are in playoff mode right now."
Love converted a three-point play with 5:27 to go in the game to cut it to a 10 point lead, but that's when the Celtics brought Garnett back in the game and it would never be that close again.
Garnett gave the fans in attendance flashbacks as he hit a fade-away jumper in Love's face to beat the shot clock with 3:55 left to give the Celtics a 14 point lead and improve his record to 4-0 at the Target Center as an ex-Timberwolf.
Afterwards, Garnett was nothing but gracious after making inflammatory comments about the Wolves franchise two days ago.
"My time has passed," he said. "It's Kevin Love's time and I understand that. I am gracious of all the applause of all the fans and very appreciative of the Twin Cities. I've always had a special place for all the people here and they know that."
This was one of those games where the Wolves were never really tuned in and never really had a chance. The Celtics established their dominance early and often.
Other than a Ridnour floater with 10:55 left in the third quarter to cut the lead to nine points, the Wolves trailed by double-digits the entire game and never even showed flashes that they would make a run to turn it into a game.
17: Assists from Rajon Rando, two more than the entire Wolves roster combined.
9: Points shy of 500 in the month of March for Love. He would have been the fourth player since 2005 to reach that mark.
1: Career 3-pointer for Malcolm Lee after he cashed a first-half shot from distance. The rookie
The Wolves were hopeful either Barea, Michael Beasley or Nikola Pekovic would be able to return for Friday's game, but all three remain on the shelf as the Wolves took on the Celtics shorthanded, and it may remain that way for awhile.
"We'll find out (Saturday) if any of those guys will be going on the (upcoming road) trip," Adelman said.
The most concerning of the three is still Pekovic, who sits out with bone spurs in his right ankle. He has missed the past five games but is at least expected to make the trip to Portland on Saturday. Whether or not he plays is a different question.
"I guess there is always a possibility (Pekovic plays)," Adelman said. "I keep hoping for that but I don't know if it is realistic and if he does play, how much can he play? He has been out for quite a while and you don't want to do anything to that ankle that is going to deteriorate him in the future."
Pekovic said earlier in the week that the bone spurs in his ankle will have to be cleaned up after the season but he isn't ready to throw in the towel on this season. It all just depends on how much pain the 6-foot-11 290 pound man from Montenegro can endure.
"That's what it is," Adelman said. "How much can he endure? He can't do anything else to it. Just depends on the individual and where it is at."
Meanwhile, Barea continues to sit with a bruised quadriceps he suffered last Friday night in a loss at Oklahoma City. He has missed the past three games and was expected to be back Friday but the swelling has not subsided.
"I thought he would be closer but sounds like he still has a lot of swelling and he isn't moving very well," Adelman said.
Barea, along with Michael Beasley and his sprained toe, remain day-to-day and, like Pekovic, are expected to at least travel with the team.
-- Garnett's response to a fan that asked him to come back to Minnesota next season.
The Wolves will get Saturday off before hitting the road again. They are off to Portland on Sunday for their third and final game against the Trail Blazers (24-27) with the Wolves looking for a 3-0 season sweep.
They hadn't won at the Rose Garden since Dec. 7, 2005 before a March 7 106-94 victory where Love poured in 42 points in front of his home state crowd.