Tonight was supposed to be about Kevin Love. About his return to the city he called home for six seasons after forcing a trade this past summer. And it was, if for only a quarter.
As expected, when Kevin Love was introduced into the starting lineup for Cleveland, fans provided him with a spattering of boos. They didn’t stop, either. Every time he touched the ball, you could hear the boos raining down. Kevin Love didn’t care.
In college, Love faced a similar situation. Love grew up just outside of Portland, and when he decided to sign to UCLA instead of staying in his home state, he knew Oregonians wouldn’t take it well.
When Love made his only visit to Eugene as a college athlete, the vitriol thrown at him was staggering. College kids drunk out of their minds let Love know how they felt about him, and Love did the same. He put up 26 points and 18 rebounds, leading #8 UCLA to a huge road victory.
In his first game back at Target Center as a Cavalier, Love’s performance was eerily similar to his only collegiate game in Eugene. Love put up 9 rebounds in the first quarter, and finished with 14 points and 17 rebounds. Love attacked the glass relentlessly and wasn’t afraid to let his shot fly.
His defense, per usual, was suspect, especially when it came time for him to rotate. On one possession, all Love did was stand still as Wiggins drove to the hoop untouched for a dunk.
— Curtis Harris (@curtismharris) February 1, 2015
As good as Love was early on, by halftime, the storyline had shifted. What was supposed to be a game defined by the Love’s return turned into an epic duel between Wiggins and LeBron.
The first three rounds of the four quarter duel went to Wiggins. In front of a sellout crowd, Wiggins shined. He drove to the basket, pushing through contact with ease. His shot looked smooth as well, as Wiggins nailed all three of his attempts from deep. In addition, Wiggins provided defensive pressure on defense, accruing four steals. As a result, when the third quarter ended, the Wolves found themselves leading, with Wiggins already having posted 31 points.
Wiggins scores on LeBron https://t.co/6mSn2kj4HI
— timberpups.com (@timberpupsblog) February 1, 2015
When the fourth quarter started, LeBron decided to send a message. The greatest player of his generation wasn’t going to allow himself to be shown up by a rookie, let alone the player he helped trade away.
LeBron was LeBron, and there was nothing Wiggins could do. James put up 16 points in the final frame, outscoring the entire Wolves team. He also held Wiggins in check, holding him to just two points as the Cavs took control late to win their 10th straight game.
Even though the Wolves lost, the sellout crowd was thoroughly entertained, which is something that hasn’t been said often over the last ten seasons. There have been far too many games the past few seasons where Target Center has been staggeringly quiet, hopeless, and devoid of life. But for one night, the fans packed the arena 19,000 strong, passionately cheering on the Wolves and getting a small peak at what the future could look like for this young squad.
The highlights are below, and they are worth a watch.