I know they are the sort of numbers that are round and fun and pop out, but 30 and 20 wasn’t even the coolest thing about Kevin Love last night.
Obviously those numbers give any player a very, very impressive game. To watch Love Tuesday night was to watch what makes someone a good rebounder. Love isn’t a rebound spunge, he’s a rebound drainage system. He sprinted inside after shots, he leveraged his body to muscle players out of his space and he missed a lot of bunnies.
The misses were a big part of what Love did. Don’t get me wrong, he had a great night, as impressive a display of physicality as I’ve seen on a basketball court in a long time, maybe ever, but he missed a lot of shots at the rim. Love shot just 6-17 from the field and missed five of his nine shots at the rim. He had nine offensive rebounds, but four of them were directly after he missed a shot at the rim.
So the 30/20 line isn’t a huge deal to me. It’s two numbers that are impressive, and it’s cool when they are paired together, but big rebounding numbers have become commonplace for Love. That was the least of what he did Tuesday night.
Far more impressive were the 24 free throws Love shot.
Some were result of questionable foul calls, of course. The two throws Love got after pump faking Ersan Ilyasova and then jumping into him after he landed stand out as particularly objectionable for Bucks fans I’m sure, but most of them were simply the result of Love’s unique combination of physicality, balance and smarts.
If Ilyasova is a specialist in pump fakes, Love is a master of what to do after a pump fake. Love had the Bucks off balance all night after his fakes by splitting time keeping them honest with shots or alternately driving by them. When he wasn’t earning throws on his fake moves, he was grabbing boards and launching himself and a shot at the rim every time he felt contact. His strategy was sound and saw him live on the free throw line in the first quarter: He made 13 of his free throws in the quarter.
Eventually the Bucks caught up with him. They stopped biting on everything, started moving their feet and rotating better and kept him off the line as much in the second half. But Love’s instincts are sharp and he’s sure to do this to opponents all season long. He isn’t a big time athlete, but he’s always in control and has programmed himself to draw shooting fouls.
A couple other notes from last night:
- Mike Dunleavy still had trouble making shots, but he and Shaun Livingston seem to exemplify a lot of what the Bucks want to do this year in terms of shot creation and ball movement. Both of them keep the ball moving and are adept at penetrating and dishing. The lack of tunnel vision is refreshing. Dunleavy finished with eight assists against just two turnovers in 32 minutes.
- It’s been a rough two games for Stephen Jackson and he’s aware of it: “I played better. I played like shit last night (Monday). I played a little better today, I still ain’t in great shape. I still got a lot of work to do. I’m far from where I need to be. I just got the shot, so I’m still trying to get my body right.”
Jeremy Schmidt writes the Milwaukee Bucks blog Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter and become a fan on Facebook.