Almost under the radar considering they’re not even leading their own division, the Dallas Mavericks had won 18 of 19 games before a last-second loss.
Love can tie Moses Malone’s post-merger record for consecutive double-doubles at 51 Monday night against the visiting Mavericks, who look to bounce back by beating Minnesota for a 17th time in 18 tries.
There’s been little reason for contending teams to pay much attention to the Timberwolves (15-49), but Love has attracted plenty of interest - and earned a trip to his first All-Star game - for his stunning string of double-doubles.
The streak hit 50 in Saturday’s 103-96 loss at Washington, putting Love just a game shy of tying Malone’s post-NBA/ABA merger record of 51 straight double-doubles, set in 1978-79.
He’s approaching Malone’s mark in style. Love had 20 points and 21 rebounds against the Wizards, his third straight 20-20 game and his 11th this season.
The rest of the league has combined for 16 20-20 efforts.
While a double-double for Love seems like a given - he has one in 59 of 64 games - the Mavericks beating the Timberwolves has been even more certain of late.
Dallas (45-17) has won 16 of 17 in the series since Jan. 7, 2006, and the games have been especially lopsided at the Target Center. The Mavericks have won eight straight in Minneapolis by an average of 17.1 points, while their home wins have come by 6.4 points per game.
Dallas beat the Timberwolves 100-86 at American Airlines Center on Dec. 1 despite shooting just 41.4 percent. Love had 12 points and 15 boards in the loss.
That victory came in the midst of the Mavericks’ 12-game winning streak from Nov. 20-Dec. 11. They’ve had some other lengthy streaks lately - though it hasn’t helped them get within shouting distance of Southwest- and league-leading San Antonio (51-12).
Dallas won 10 straight Jan. 22-Feb. 9 before losing at the buzzer in Denver, then reeled off eight more consecutive wins again heading into Sunday’s visit from Memphis.
It took what was essentially another buzzer-beater to knock off the Mavericks again and keep them 5 1/2 games behind the Spurs. Dirk Nowitzki(notes) gave Dallas a one-point lead with 3.1 seconds to play, but Zach Randolph’s(notes) high-arching 17-footer with 0.3 seconds left gave the Grizzlies a 104-103 win.
The Mavericks led by 17 points at the half, making it the four times in their last nine losses that they’ve squandered a double-digit lead.
“That’s what happens sometimes if you give up big leads all the time - at some point, it’s going to come back to bite you and today (it did),” Nowitzki said.
Aside from its dominance against Minnesota, Dallas should be confident in its ability to bounce back. The Mavs have lost consecutive games just twice with Nowitzki in the lineup this season, and are 8-2 when the former MVP plays on the second night of a back-to-back.
The Mavericks’ loss Sunday dropped them to 34-3 when they score 100 points or more. Minnesota allows an NBA-worst 107.3 points per game and is 5-41 when its opponent hits triple digits.