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BERG: Love has brought Wolves a long way, but playoff appearance is needed

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love (left) looks to pass as Milwaukee Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) defends during their game Saturday in Milwqukee. Minnesota defeated Milwaukee 117-95. Mary Langenfeld | USA Today Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Kevin Love has brought both himself and the Minnesota Timberwolves a long way in his five-plus seasons in the NBA. Unfortunately for Minnesota, his efforts may not be enough to have the Timberwolves, or Love, in the national spotlight that he deserves.

Monday’s controversial 100-98 loss to the Dallas Mavericks at the Target Center was just another example.

The game will be remembered for the swallowed whistles in the final seconds, but the Timberwolves’ disastrous first half epitomized the problem for the 15-16 team.


Minnesota committed 13 turnovers in the first half, most of them in the second quarter, and trailed by as many as 21 points early in the third quarter. Minnesota’s bench players logged 58 minutes combined and scored just five points — all scored by JJ Barea.

“Our bench had five points tonight,” Love said following Monday’s loss. “We need to get our bench going. I do not know what we have to do to light a fire under them, but five points is not okay.”

Fueled by a furious third quarter run, sparked by 14 points from Corey Brewer, Minnesota battled all the way back to regain a three-point lead in the fourth quarter.

The game ended with Love being slapped across the arm by Mavericks forward Shawn Marion while attempting a game-tying shot to force overtime.

“I won’t ever say the game comes down to one call,” Brewer said. “We started the game so bad, I was just happy we fought back to give ourselves a shot to win. I’m not sure what happened at the end, but it did not go our way. That’s just basketball.”

After the game, Timberwolves head coach Rick Adelman said that other stars in the NBA like LeBron James and even Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki would have gotten the benefit of that call.

Love agreed.

“Of course I agree,” Love said of his coach’s claim. “I’m the kind of guy who thinks if you seen an obvious call, you call it. Look at the replay and you will see it was a pretty obvious call.”

Breaking down the statistics of Love and other elite players in the NBA, there is no reason why he does not get the “superstar” treatment from the officials or the national media.

He ranks second in the league in scoring, first in rebounding, and the list of outstanding point-rebound feats he has achieved this season alone stand above most players in the past 20 or 30 years.

It is no secret the next step for Love and the Timberwolves is reaching the playoffs, something Love has never done and the team has not done since 2003-04.

“We have to find a way to get over the hump,” Brewer said. “We are fighting for the playoffs now.”

Brewer, who was drafted by the Timberwolves in 2007, spent three seasons with the team — two with Love — sees the difference Love has made in his career.

“It is a lot different,” Brewer said of the current team compared to the one he played on during his first stint with Minnesota. “We have a chance to win every night. When I was first here, we did not have a chance to win any night.”

Monday’s loss to Dallas marked the fifth time in December when the team had a chance to climb above the .500 mark, but Minnesota is 0-5 in those games.

“It’s been four or five times where we could not get over the hump, and that is frustrating,” center Nikola Pekovic said of failing to surpass the .500 mark. “We just have to keep fighting and keep playing hard.”

The Timberwolves currently sit in ninth place, three games behind Dallas, in the Western Conference standings.

“This game hurts,” point guard Ricky Rubio said of the loss to Dallas. “Not only because we did not win, but because the teams right ahead of us won.The West is so close, every game makes a difference. When you lose a game like this it is more than just one loss, it is more like two. It feels like three.”

As 2013 comes to an end, Love and the Timberwolves have found themselves in a position to do something the franchise has not done in nearly a decade: play more than 82 games in a season.

“I definitely think we are better than a .500 team,” Love said. “Hopefully we will have good things to come in 2014.”

A strong finish in the final 51 games could finally garner Love the national respect that he has earned.