Wearing a black brace on his left wrist and hand, Kevin Love made a surprising season debut for the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday night but the result was the same as it has been in the previous two games.
"I told my teammates," Love said about playing in his first game in about five weeks. "They didn't really believe me. Once they saw the jersey in my locker they believed it was true."
Love made them all believers against the Denver Nuggets.
The problem is his teammates apparently kept standing in awe, watching as Love played one-man gang basketball.
After breaking his hand doing knuckle pushups with two weeks left in the preseason, the All-Star forward was activated earlier in the day and delivered an impressive performance later in the night going for 34 points and 14 rebounds. And while the Wolves mounted a 17-point lead before the half against the Nuggets, Love got little-to-no help on either end of the floor. Only two other players scored in double-figures and that was Nikola Pekovic (10 points) and J.J. Barea (12 points), who both also returned from injuries.
The final: a 101-94 loss to Denver. Minnesota is now on a three-game losing streak and are 5-5 over their last ten games.
Love said he hasn’t been practicing and didn’t feel like himself, but that will come with time, getting his conditioning in place and reclaiming a natural game rhythm. It’s scary to think though — if Love didn’t feel like himself and he still put up 34 and 14 in 35 minutes, what’s going to happen when he’s 100%?
Hopefully by then the rest of the roster will help shoulder the load.
"I missed some free throws, missed some 3s that I don't usually miss. A lot of those could have saved us the game," Love added.
Getting healthy as a complete unit would sure make life easier for Minnesota. Prior to Wednesday nights’ game versus Denver, the Wolves only had nine players available for the previous three games they played.
The return of Kevin Love is a great place to start.