MINNEAPOLIS — The Timberwolves brought anachronistic rapper/reality-television handyman Vanilla Ice to Target Center on Friday night for some halftime entertainment and distributed 15,000 little “KLove MVP” placards to a sellout audience that awaited the Boston Celtics’ only visit this season.
The first didn’t particularly inspire the home team, the second didn’t seem particularly wise after the Wolves’ 100-79 loss to the surging Celtics and a determined fellow named Kevin Garnett who brought home the 1990s-revisited theme better than anybody.
The Celtics won their fourth consecutive game, their sixth in the past seven and grabbed first place in the Atlantic Division from Philadelphia by delivering the Wolves their worst margin of defeat this season.
Garnett turned back the clock on those 35-year-old legs, sending Wolves forward Kevin Love’s rip-roaring month of March out like the proverbial lamb. And Garnett’s defensive performance was a reminder that the game isn’t simply about statistical achievement.
Garnett helped limit Love to a 5-for-18 shooting night in which Love’s 22 points and 11 rebounds weren’t nearly enough to carry an injury-ravaged team, especially when Garnett matched Love with a 24-point, 10-rebound night of his own.
“What’s crazy is he still ended up with 22 and 11 and it’s like a bad night for K-Love,” teammate Anthony Tolliver said.
It seemed like that because the game’s objective is to win, and the Celtics led by double digits for much of the night, while Garnett looked right at home in the arena where he played his first 12 NBA seasons.
“I know this building very well and I’m very comfortable in this building,” Garnett said. “So, you know, I sort of reverted back to ‘04.”
The Timberwolves won 58 games, reached the Western Conference finals for the first and only time in their history and Garnett was named the league’s MVP in that 2003-04 season.
So before anybody starts comparing stats and projecting Love’s career path above and beyond that of a guy who has played 17 NBA seasons, won one NBA title and lost another, here’s some advice: Don’t do it.
“I think KG took it personal tonight,” Tolliver said. “I’m sure he has been hearing a lot of stuff about Kevin Love being the best power forward in the league. One night doesn’t really change it, but he’s a competitor. He’s a veteran. He knows what to do, how to win.”
Garnett did so on Friday, defusing Love’s fabulous March run with those long arms of his and then scoring two decisive, consecutive baskets after Love’s three-point play got the Wolves within 10 points with 5:27 left.
“I think he has been quoted as saying he’s 6-12 or 6-13,” Love said. “He’s not 6-11. He’s 7-1 and long and still has it. He’s still a very elite defender and he knows when to turn it off and on.”
Especially when he arrives at the arena he called home for so long already turned up and turned on, two nights after he told reporters he still loves Timberwolves fans but has nothing good to say about the organization and said he’s only motivated by those who say he’s growing old.
“If y’all know anything about me, you know I was more than ready and prepared tonight,” Garnett said. “We already know how Kevin Love goes is how the Wolves go. So we know if we slowed him down, we had a good chance of opening up the game, and we did.”