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Updated: October 19th, 2010 11:08pm
Pacers beat Wolves, 128-124 in OT; Love continues strong preseason

Pacers beat Wolves, 128-124 in OT; Love continues strong preseason

MINNEAPOLIS -- There is an unwritten rule in baseball that it's better to lose in the bottom of the ninth than go into extra innings in a preseason game.

The Indiana Pacers and Minnesota Timberwolves showed tonight that the rule doesn't apply to basketball too. 

The Pacers (3-3) outlasted the Timberwolves (5-2) 128-124 in OT Tuesday night at Target Center.

What should come as no surprise to anyone following the Timberwolves this preseason, it was once again Kevin Love leading the way.

Love finished with 28 points on 9-for-14 shooting and 11 rebounds and two assists.

"I am just picking my spots.  I feel like I know where to score. I feel like I can get to the line especially when we are in the bonus," Love said.

The merits of preseason games and stats are questioned every year. Coach Kurt Rambis was recently asked what good start to the preaseason means -- "It means at some point it won't mean anything." 

One would be hard pressed, however, to get Love to say this preseason doesn't mean anything.  He is having the best preseason of his short career which may not sound that impressive but is a big step for him after how his sophomore campaign started out.

Leading up to the 2009-10 season, Love caught heat when he prematurely announced the firing of head coach Kevin McHale on his now-defunct Twitter account, broke a metacarpal in his left hand in a preseason game against Chicago and missed the first 18 games of the season.  When Love returned his role was primarily off the bench and he dealt with constant rumors that he and teammate Al Jefferson didn't get along behind the scenes.

Now in 2010, Jefferson has been shipped off to Utah, the roster that won 15 games last season has been revamped with young talent and Love, just a month and change after his 22nd birthday, has the opportunity to emerge as a leader on this team.  

"I am just trying to go into every practice have that mentality that I just want to form into a leader," Love said. "I am hoping to be that guy but that is going to come with a lot of hard work."

Heading into training camp Rambis said that Love would have to earn his spot in the starting lineup. This may have been a motivation technique to show Love that, just because Al Jefferson is in Utah, doesn't mean the keys to the team are his.

If it was a motivational technique, it worked.

Through seven preseason games, fans can go ahead and pencil Love into the starting lineup for the season opener Wednesday, Oct. 27th against the Sacramento Kings.

Heading into tonight Love leads the team in points per game (17.7) rebounds (11.5), three-point percentage (.611), second in minutes played (155) and third in field-goal percentage (.507).

"Kevin deserves everything that he gets because he put in an awful lot of hard work into getting where he is at.  He has worked on his game he has honed his skills, he really wanted to improve this year and he has done that," Rambis said.

Love not only leads the team in the boxscore but in the little things too, the intangibles that do not show up on a stat sheet but every coach preaches since middle school—and most NBA players have long forgotten.

Love continually sets the tone with his hustle, moving without the ball, tipping a ball to keep it alive, and showing the selflessness it takes to dive on the floor for a loose ball.

No clearer example of this came in a game against the LA Lakers in London, England.  With a comfortable 16 point 3rd quarter lead, Love laid out for a ball to knock it ahead and create a basket for Corey Brewer.

Love also showed great discipline playing down the stretch with five fouls to hold off the Milwaukee Bucks 114-109 on Sunday.  Love also scored 14 of his career high 32 points in the 4th quarter and in doing so became the first Timberwolve to score 30+ points in a preseason game since Kevin Garnett did it in 2003.