Love has a significant edge over Howard as the NBA’s top two rebounders go head-to-head Saturday night at the Target Center, where Love’s Minnesota Timberwolves try to hand Howard’s Orlando Magic a third straight loss.
Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Dennis Rodman and Kevin Garnett(notes) are the only players to have won four consecutive rebounding titles, a feat Chamberlain pulled off twice. Howard seemed poised to join that group after comfortably winning the crown the past three seasons.
Love has put that pursuit in jeopardy as the season hits the halfway point. His 15.7 rebounds per game are not only 2.3 more than Howard, but the most since Rodman averaged 16.1 in 1996-97 and more than anyone other than Rodman since Malone grabbed 17.6 per contest in 1978-79.
Both Love and Howard also are having their best seasons offensively. Love hit 5 of 6 3-pointers on his way to 35 points Thursday against Washington, also pulling down 11 rebounds for his 26th straight double-double as Minnesota (10-30) won 109-97 without the injured Michael Beasley(notes).
“It’s a tough guard when you’ve got a 4 man who can shoot the ball,” said the 6-foot-9 Love, shooting 45.4 percent from beyond the arc. “Six-foot-eight or above and shooting the 3-ball like that, its tough to guard.”
Howard did all he could offensively when Orlando (25-14) visited Oklahoma City on Thursday, but it wasn’t enough for his team to bounce back after its nine-game winning streak was snapped in New Orleans one night earlier. Howard tied a season high with 39 points and grabbed 18 rebounds, but the Magic’s fourth-quarter comeback fell short in a 125-124 loss.
“(Wednesday), it was our offense was awful and tonight we couldn’t stop them at all,” coach Stan Van Gundy said, referencing Orlando’s 31.5 percent shooting outside of Howard in the 92-89 overtime loss to the Hornets.
Even though the Magic have won nine of 11, their penchant for slow starts has Van Gundy concerned. Orlando has been behind after the first quarter in eight of its last 10 contests.
“I don’t like that trend,” Van Gundy said. “Whether we have to make changes in that lineup or something, but those guys - we’re just always in a hole now and that’s not good.”
The Magic certainly didn’t have trouble getting off to a fast start when they hosted Minnesota on Nov. 3. They shot 60.9 percent and hit five 3-pointers while outscoring the Timberwolves 37-18 in the opening 12 minutes en route to a 128-86 drubbing.
Orlando led by 33 at halftime in its fifth straight win versus Minnesota since Love’s rookie season. Howard had 18 points, 16 rebounds and a season-high eight blocks while helping hold former Magic center Darko Milicic(notes) scoreless.
Love had 22 points, nine boards, five turnovers and five fouls - one of the five games he’s failed to record a double-double.
Beasley missed that game with a sore left hip, and the sprained ankle he aggravated Tuesday against San Antonio could keep him out again Saturday - and possibly even longer. Coach Kurt Rambis expressed concern Thursday that his second-leading scorer’s ankle might not be fully healthy again this season.
Orlando has averaged 111.0 points in winning four straight at Minnesota.