2014 All Star Weekend Wrap-Up: Kevin Love Spotlight

This past weekend, Kevin Love represented the Minnesota Timberwolves in New Orleans for the 2014 NBA All-Star weekend. On Saturday, Love competed in the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest in an attempt to take home a second title. The following evening, Love scored 13 points in his first All-Star game as a starter.  Despite Love’s and his team’s effort, the West came up on the losing side of the 163-155 final score.

 

Foot Locker Three-Point Contest (Saturday, Feb 15)

Although the league’s top three-point shooters tend to be guards, the 6’10” Love breaks the trend as a long-ball-shooting power forward. In 2012, Love won the Footlocker Three-Point Contest after an intense shootout with Kevin Durant. Following that contest two years ago, NBA’s Shaun Powell wrote the following:

“Love is the strangest of power forwards–someone who can change a game either in the paint or beyond the arc. Someone who rebounds with abandon but also has the touch of a diamond-cutter from deep.”

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

This year, Love hoped to take back the title. Prior to the contest, No. 42 told Timberwolves web editor Mark Remme that the one thing he didn’t want was to shoot first. “I jinxed myself,” said Love when he found himself called on to lead off the event. Love scored 16 points in the contest, but it proved insufficient to move past the first round.

Remme explains how this year’s competition looked different in a few ways. The East and West were grouped individually, and the first-round leader from each conference  advanced to the championship. Another adjustment was how the ball racks and money balls were arranged. Four racks had four regular balls with one money ball, while one rack—placed in any of the five spots around the arc that the shooter wants—had five money balls. All money balls were worth two points, while regular balls were worth one.

Unfortunately for Love, he couldn’t wrack up those bonus points.

After the first round, San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli advanced over Love with 19 points, and Washington’s Bradley Beal moved on with 21. Each player scored 19 apiece in the finals, spurring a tie-breaker. In the end, Belinelli walked away with 24 points and the 2014 title.

“My first time, it was a lot of fun,” Love said. “Second time, just as fun. Well, I shouldn’t say just as fun—I didn’t walk away with the trophy or a win. But I still got in there and enjoyed myself, that’s what it’s all about.”

 

2014 NBA All-Star Game

The NBA All-Star game was, as always, a battle of the offenses. Flawless passes, full-court lobs, and high point totals highlighted Smoothie King Center on Sunday evening. This year’s starting lineups were as follows:

 

West

East

F Kevin Durant  (OKC) Paul George  (IND)
F Blake Griffin  (LAC) Carmelo Anthony  (NYK)
C Kevin Love  (MIN) LeBron James  (MIA)
G James Harden  (HOU) Dwayne Wade  (MIA)
G Stephen Curry  (GS) Kyrie Irving  (WAS)

Irving led the East with 31 points, while Durant and Griffin each added 38 points for the West. Love tallied 13 points (including two three-point buckets) and nine rebounds in 32 minutes on the floor.

“It was great to be part of it,” Love said. “It was a lot of fun—my first time starting in the game and also my first time finishing.”

(photo credit: NBA.com)

(photo credit: NBA.com)

Although the Western Conference teams hold overall better records and seem to consistently be the better of the two conferences, it was the East that delivered a stronger performance in the All-Star game. It can be expected that most players don’t take the All-Star game too seriously — after all, no one wants to suffer an injury in such a contest. However, there was definitely an edge of competition Sunday evening.  “We wanted this win,” James said post game. “They beat us the last three years and they had a lot of bragging rights, so to be able to come through being down 18 was huge.”

“We took this [game] personal a bit,” Irving added.

Irving shot an incredible 82.4 percent en route to his final numbers of 31 points, five rebounds and 14 assists. Not surprisingly, the Washington guard took home the 2014 All-Star MVP honors.

True to tradition, the game exchanged leads a few times throughout the first three quarters.  The score even remained close during most of the fourth quarter. In the end, however, the East proved the stronger shooters. Overall, the East shot 60.9 percent from the field (to the West’s 51 percent), 31.8 percent from behind the three-point line, and 100 percent from the charity stripe. Only 17 free throws were attempted cumulatively, as the All-Star defense was true to form: barely present.

(photo credit: kare11.com)

(photo credit: kare11.com)

Love noticeably enjoyed his court time with fellow All-Starsboth teammates and opponents. At one point, Love and Irving shared a playful elbow bump on the court; the moment reflected a friendship the two have undoubtedly formed after starring together off the court in Pepsi MAX’s Uncle Drew series last season.

“Kyrie played awesome tonight,” Love said post game. “It was a well-deserving MVP, and there are a lot of guys that put on a show tonight. I think the fans got their money’s worth.”

This year’s All-Star performance was flashy in more ways than just the slam dunks and full-court passes. True to New Orleans’ fashion, all the players donned colorful socks and tennis shoes that reflected a Mardi Gras atmosphere. The Western team wore red and purple socks, the Eastern team wore blue and green socks, and all the jerseys featured the city’s well-recognized fleur-de-lis.

The evening had no shortage of music, either.  The rosters and starting lineups were introduced through a concert by Pharrell Williams. The show also featured artists Nelly, Busta Rhymes, Sean “Diddy” Combs and Snoop Dogg.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Love.  “Hopefully I’ll be back in New York next year and enjoying the festivities again.”

 

In-Arena Moment:

Following the first quarter, former NBA All-Star Magic Johnson encouraged the other All-Star players to join him in singing “Happy Birthday” to Hall of Famer Bill Russell, who turned 80 on Sunday.

 

 

 

Timberwolves Sail Over Pelicans, 88-77

It was not the most graceful of games, but a win is a win. The Timberwolves held New Orleans to a season-low 77 points at the Target Center while tallying 88 to take their fifth win in six games. Kevin Love led the Wolves with 30 points and 14 rebounds, and Kevin Martin added 18 points.

Both teams played without a major starter. Nikola Pekovic was listed inactive for Minnesota with the ankle injury, and the Pelicans missed forward Anthony Davis due to a dislocated finger.

Davis tends to hit the mid-range shots in addition to being a threat on the inside; New Orleans struggled in his absence, shooting just 35 percent from the field and an ugly nine percent from behind the arc.

Ronny Turiaf replaced Pekovic for most of the game, and his defensive game certainly cannot be criticized. With Turiaf being a lower-scoring player (he grabbed four points on the evening), though, Love absorbed some pressure to compromise offensively.

“With Pek out, we really have to find a way to relieve the pressure off [Love], move him around and stuff,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “We know teams are going to come at him. … So we have to find ways to figure it out.”

Turiaf_Pelicans

Love proved unstoppable, playing more aggressively than has been seen of late. He covered all areas of the floor, even dishing out five assists when Ricky Rubio went to the bench with four fouls.

JJ Barea and Dante Cunningham came off the bench to score 10 and 12 points, respectively, which helped give some relief to Minnesota’s starting lineup.

Al-Farouq Aminu worked to keep his team afloat, grabbing 18 points and 12 boards, but it wasn’t enough. New Orleans’ Greg Steimsma, who played with the Wolves last season, scored just three points as the starting center, and point guard Brian Roberts added only nine.

In all honesty, both teams looked terrible in the second half. Turnovers were a regular occurrence on each side, and players looked lackluster across the board.

Minnesota kept the upper hand, though, capitalizing on second-attempt buckets and free throws to stay in the lead. Defensively, the Wolves played better than they have most of the season, and they held New Orleans to 15 points in the fourth quarter.

“This is when you have to step up, and we just didn’t do it tonight,” said Pelicans coach Monty Williams. “That happens.”

Rubio_Pelicans

Wednesday’s win brought the Wolves to two games over .500 for the first time since November, and fans certainly hope the team has turned a corner on the season.

“We’ve been playing great over these past six games and we just want to continue doing whatever we’ve been doing,” Martin said post-game.

Minnesota will host the Memphis Grizzles Friday night at the Target Center. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

 

Sideline Moment: 

(from NBA.com): During a second quarter break, the Wolves played a video tribute to Love for being named an All-Star starter. The video also encouraged fans to put the pressure on the All-Star coaches to name Pekovic a reserve by tweeting to #pekgoestoo, claiming the bruising duo doesn’t like being separated. The two big men stood together and watched, sharing a laugh while Love pointed at Pekovic and gave his shoulders a shake.

“[Nikola's] one of my best friends in the world,” said Love, “and I want to make sure he goes too.”