MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The hardest part of what turned out to be a historic night for Kevin Love was deciding whether he was going to play at all.
With a bulky brace wrapped around his bruised and swollen left knee, the Minnesota Timberwolves star didn't decide to give it a go until about 20 minutes before tipoff. Once he did, he made extending the longest double-double streak in 37 years look too easy.
Love recorded his 52nd double-double in a row to surpass Moses Malone for the longest such streak since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976 in the Timberwolves' 101-75 over the free-falling Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night.
Love put up 16 points and 21 rebounds in just 27 minutes to help the Timberwolves win for just the 16th time this season. Love didn't waste any time extending the streak, reaching double figures in points and rebounds with just under seven minutes to play in the first half.
``I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get up and down the court with how stiff it was,' Love said. ``But I think I made the right choice, not only did I get that (mark), but more importantly we got the win.'
Tyler Hansbrough scored 21 points for the Pacers, who shot a season-low 29 percent to lose their fifth straight game. Forward Danny Granger managed just 10 points on 2-for-19 shooting.
Michael Beasley added 16 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes for Minnesota.
With the Pacers clanging shot after shot, Love had 10 rebounds in just 12 minutes of playing time. And the crowd knew it, too.
Love grabbed his first rebound in the first 10 seconds of the game and one fan yelled, ``That's one! That's one!'
He stepped to the free throw line with 6:51 to play in the first half and nine points and 10 boards, and the crowd rose to its feet and roared.
The first free throw splashed through, and Love let out a big sigh of relief as his achievement was announced. He gave a wave to the crowd, which chanted ``MVP! MVP!' when he tied Malone on Monday night, then went back to work.
``They're funny,' Love said with a chuckle. ``They're the same crowd that has been backing us all year, but also the same crowd that was chanting MVP for me last game. They're funny. They've been great all year. I'll be their MVP any day.'
Only nine players in NBA history - both before and after the merger - have had at least 50 double-doubles in a row. All eight besides Love - Malone, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Elgin Baylor, Walt Bellamy, Wilt Chamberlain, Elvin Hayes, Jerry Lucas and Bill Russell - are in the Hall of Fame.
Next up on the list of longest streaks is Hayes with 55 in a row in 1973-74.
``Why not go for Elvin then?' he said. ``Why stop now?'
Even better, Love got to watch the entire fourth quarter from the bench, resting a knee that was clearly bothering him while he was on the court. The Timberwolves won for just the 12th time during his streak.
``It's crazy,' said teammate Anthony Randolph, who had 14 points and seven rebounds. ``Today he was hurt and he was still able to get 21 rebounds.'
The Pacers are in the middle of a streak of their own, and it's not a good one. After winning seven of their first eight games following the firing of coach Jim O'Brien, the Pacers have lost seven of their past eight games and are losing by an average of 17 points over the past five.
They entered the night 1 1/2 games ahead of Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff spot and hit a new low in getting blown out by the worst team in the Western Conference.
``It's unbelievable, but yeah we're still in the playoffs as of right now,' Hansbrough said. ``That's why we need to turn things around quickly. It's been a goal of ours to get into the playoffs for a while. So we'll see what happens.'
Hansbrough made two of his first four shots, but his teammates missed their first 15 field goals. The game got out of hand in the third quarter when Indiana scored just two points in the first six minutes to fall behind by 22.
``Clearly we're struggling on the offensive end,' coach Frank Vogel said. ``We're struggling as a basketball team. We will work until we come out of it, and we will come out of it.'
Notes: Pacers F Josh McRoberts left the game in the second quarter with a sore right knee and did not return. ... Love also set a franchise record early in the third quarter with his 309th offensive rebound of the season. ... Wolves F Wes Johnson did not play in the second half because of an upset stomach. ... Timberwolves F Lazar Hayward missed the game with an illness.
The Associated Press News Service
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