Lamar Odom hopes to stop Kevin Love
MINNEAPOLIS -- Lamar Odom can say something that not many of his peers in the NBA can these days.
Odom dominated Love in their last meeting, holding his United States teammate scoreless with just seven rebounds in the Los Angeles Lakers' 112-95 victory over the Wolves on Nov. 19.
Since that game, Love has 46 straight double-doubles. That's the longest streak in the NBA since Moses Malone had 51 in a row over the course of two seasons from 1978-79 to 1979-80.
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The two grew close while helping win a gold medal at the world championships in Turkey last summer. Now Love, who leads the NBA with 15.5 rebounds per game and averages 21 points in what has been a break-out season, finally gets a shot at redemption when the Timberwolves host the Lakers on Tuesday night.
"It's the way the ball bounces sometimes," Odom said nonchalantly on Monday after practice. "He's having a great season and playing well. I'm happy to see him playing well. He's a great person."
The 6-foot-10 Odom has the lateral quickness of a shooting guard, the length of a power forward and the muscle of a center, making him a matchup nightmare for most players in the league, particularly the shorter, slower Love.
Love had 23 points and 24 rebounds against Odom in a narrow loss at Staples Center on Nov. 9, and some chiding from Lakers coach Phil Jackson had Odom motivated when they returned to town 10 days later. From the opening tip, Odom controlled the action, pushing Love out further away from the basket and out-jumping him for loose balls.
He had 11 points, eight rebounds and seven assists, a typically well-rounded box score for one of the most versatile players in the game.
"Sometimes when you're in that rebounding mode, the ball just bounces to you," Odom said. "You're missing your shot, you're able to follow it up. That's just the way it went that night. That night I was able to focus on keeping him off the offensive glass and that helped."
Love was despondent after the game.
"That was probably the most poor game of my career," Love said then. "I apologize to my teammates, coaches, everybody. I can't have a game like that."
He responded convincingly, putting together a historic string of double-doubles that was too much for commissioner David Stern to ignore. He has had at least 30 points and 20 rebounds in a game four times this season, the latest coming in a 37-point, 23-rebound performance in a win over the Warriors on Sunday. If he finishes the season at this pace, he would have the highest rebounding average since Dennis Rodman (16.1) in 1996-97.
Jackson, for one, wondered how Love got the bid over Aldridge while playing for the worst team in the Western Conference. When asked about Love on Monday, Jackson said simply, "He gets a lot of numbers."
"He's a guy that really goes after rebounds, gets all the missed free throws and the ones at the end of quarters," Jackson said. "He gets a lot of numbers. It's quite significant."
Jackson's words were dripping with some of that trademark sarcasm, but he did compare Love's relentless style to a former teammate, Jerry Lucas.
"[Lucas had] 20,000 points and 10,000 rebounds. So he was a guy that was a great number player," Jackson said. "But the end result is what you look at. You want to look at how that contributes to wins. Yesterday he certainly did."
The Timberwolves (14-46) are tied with Sacramento for fewest victories in the West. Only Cleveland (11-48) has lost more games.
Jackson also implied that Love remained in the game longer on occasion to make sure he got the numbers to keep the streak going.
He pointed to two recent games against Memphis -- Love had 10 points and 10 rebounds in a loss to the Grizzlies on Feb. 2 and 15 points and 11 boards in a loss on Feb. 23 -- for examples.
"It looked like [Grizzlies forward Zach] Randolph was making a special effort to say, 'This isn't going to happen on my watch,"' Jackson said.
Odom said that wasn't the case for him.
"The short time that we shared together and the camaraderie that was built and winning that medal that a lot of people didn't think we were going to be able to win forever bonded us," Odom said. "Whether you're watching a guy or playing against him, you want to play well against a guy like that. And you wish him well, too."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press