Kevin Love was determined to bounce back from a dismal 2012-13, and through the midway point of this season he's done that...and more. He and the Timberwolves travel to Chicago tonight on CSN to take on the Bulls. Coverage begins at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live, with Mark Schanowski previewing the matchup. And make sure to stay tuned following the game for Bulls Postgame Live, where we'll have highlights, reaction from Tom Thibodeau and the players and analysis.
After a second straight All-Star appearance, Kevin Love had major aspirations last season. He had just averaged 26 points and 13.3 rebounds in 55 games, become one of the league's best rebounders and outside shooting big men and had his Timberwolves heading in the right direction with a 26-40 lockout-shortened season (.394), 19 percentage points better than their 17-65 mark in 2011 (.207).
Instead, his season was a nightmare. He suffered a broken hand doing pushups in October, causing him to miss the first month of the season. Two months later he re-fractured that hand in a game, causing him to miss the rest of the season. In 18 games, he averaged 18.3 points on a career-worst 35 percent shooting, grabbed 14 rebounds but was essentially a non-factor for the 31-51 Timberwolves; they were just 16-37 after Love's season-ending injury.
But a healthy Love has done wonders for the Timberwolves. In 42 games he's averaged 24.8 points, 13 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.3 3-pointers in 36 minutes per game. Thursday he was named an All-Star starter for the first time, and the Timberwolves are 21-22, a mere four games out of the final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Timberwolves have been a roller coaster in January, alternating wins and losses in their first six games, followed by a three-game losing streak, followed by a three-game winning streak before falling to the Trail Blazers on Saturday. Tonight marks the end of a four-game road trip that included an impressive 121-120 win in Golden State, with Love contributing 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
His MVP-worthy season has been a turning point for the Timberwolves offense. Last year they ranked 25th in efficiency, yet are all the way up to 9th in 2013-14. He's helped by an ever-improving Ricky Rubio (8.3 assists), newcomer Kevin Martin (19.6 points) and Nikola Pekovic's career year (18.4 points, 9.3 rebounds). The Bulls will be looking to rebound from a poor defensive showing in a 112-95 loss to the Clippers last time they were home, and it will need to come against a Minnesota group that has scored 100+ points in three straight.
It's all happening tonight on Comcast SportsNet. Tune in all night and stay interactive during the game with Bulls Pulse, using #BullsTalk on Twitter to join the conversation.