Love or Blake?
Cub scouts the weekend hoops scene.
by Cub Buenning
Saturday night, the Northwest Division doormats, the Minnesota Timberwolves came to Denver to face a Nugget team still seething from the last-second loss to San Antonio. Fortunately for Denver fans, the team came out hitting on all cylinders, before taking a comfortable second-half lead (20 in the 3rd quarter). Unfortunately, those hoping for a smooth easy win were a bit disappointed as the Nuggets followed their early season pattern of playing “stinker” 4th quarters. The defense was a little shaky and one gentleman by the name of Kevin Love decided to single-handedly will his team back into the game. The Nuggets were able to hold on (if there was another minute or so added to the game, I don’t think they would have maintained the advantage) and eek out a 115-113 victory. Love finished the night with a career-high 43 points to go with his requisite 17 rebounds. The Nuggets again, played without Chauncey Billups, but got more impressive play from the developing Ty Lawson, who finished with 23 points, 9 assists and 3 steals.
Wins are wins. They all count the same come playoff time. There are no style points. I’m assuming that’s an acceptable refrain for a 16-10 team playing in the league’s toughest division. It also appears we may see the return of Chauncey, Kenyon Martin and Birdman all this week!
I want to discuss further the merits of Minnesota’s Kevin Love in relation to our favorite Los Angeles Clipper, Blake Griffin. At first glance, the two power forwards do not appear to have many similarities, but at this point in their careers, we might be looking at two of the most prolific players of their time. Statistically speaking, the two players are almost identical at this point. The 22-year-old Love, in his third pro season, stands at 6-10 goes 265ish and is currently boasting averages of 21 points, 16 rebounds and 2.5 assists. The 21-year-old rookie Griffin, on the other hand, is 6-10 260 and has his numbers up to 21 points, 12 rebounds and 3 assists. Both are exceptional passers (Love’s outlet passes are already legendary; Griffin has point-guard vision in the half-court) and extremely unselfish despite having the ability to drop 40 on any given night (which they both have this year). In addition, with all due respect to Dwight Howard, the pair is the league’s top double-double machines as both are currently standing on 15-game streaks.
Aesthetically speaking, the pair might not seem so similar, as Griffin is far more apt to end up on SportsCenter’s top plays than Love, but that might be more indicative of Love’s perimeter skills (that were on full display this weekend) as apposed to Griffin’s propensity for finishing at (read: over) the rim. Love is far more athletic than most give him credit for and Griffin’s developing perimeter game is much farther along than I even thought. Now if he can just get consistent with his free-throw shooting.
Unfortunately for their respective fans, both the Clippers and the T’Wolves entered Saturday with 6-21 marks. While Love’s 43 wasn’t enough, Blake’s 29/12 on Saturday night spurred the Clip-Joint to a big win over Chicago.
A slow NCAA hoops week (those blasted finals getting in the way!) turned into a busy weekend with all of the big teams in action. My boys from Gonzaga bounced back from a tough start to the season (with their incredibly difficult pre-conference schedule) to get an impressive win in Dallas over a talented Baylor team (SLAM’s been telling you this, but remember the name Perry Jones III). Our guys from UC-Santa Barbara were beaten soundly by a really good team from San Diego State.
Illinois and Missouri were not able to make it to Wednesday’s Braggin’ Rights Game with identical records as the Fightin’ Illini played an uncharacteristic sloppy (and not veteran-like) game in losing upstate in Chicago to UI-Chicago. While the Illini have dominated the Chicago-land region in recent recruiting cycles, that win will surely help the fate of the Flames of the Horizon League.
And if you haven’t seen the play of Ohio State freshman Jared Sullinger you are missing out.