Dwight Howard could box out Kevin Love for rebound crown

Categories: Sports
K Love.jpg
Image courtesy of Keith Allison
Love is having his lowest rebound month of the season.

As the Timberwolves' season winds down to the last 11 games, it's possible that their rare chunk of gold in a campaign replete with coal may be in jeopardy.

No, Kevin Love's superb record streak of 53 consecutive double-doubles (from 11/22/10 to 3/13/11) isn't receiving any challenge. But his grasp on an NBA rebounding title might be.

Entering Thursday, Love continued to lead the league in both total boards (1,096) and rebounds per game (15.4). However, his boards totals have been trending downward as the season creeps to a close, and adding to the concern is a pre-existing groin injury he further suffered during the Wolves' woeful loss to Sacramento last Sunday. Love had yet to miss a game this season, but he departed that debacle in the first half and did not return. It was announced on Wednesday afternoon that he would not travel with the team on their two-game road trip against Dallas on Thursday and Oklahoma City on Friday.​

While Love's status for the trip had been a matter of query, there is no question that Orlando's Dwight Howard has been making a late-season push at Love's claim on a league board crown.

At a still-stellar 14.9 rebs per game in 11 March contests, Love continues to board at an elite level, although that mark does represent his lowest monthly average of the season. But Howard--who has led the NBA in total rebounding each of the last five seasons--is playing some major catch-up, clipping at a March rate of nearly 17 rebounds a game. For the season, Howard averaged 14.3 boards per contest entering the Magic's Wednesday eve game in New York. With 11 games to play in their own right prior to their set versus the Knicks, Orlando owned a firm hold on the No. 4 seed in the East.

In his last 10 games played, Howard grabbed 168 total rebounds to Love's 153; that mark includes Love's abbreviated outing against the Kings on Sunday. Of those 10, Howard has corralled 15 or more rebs in nine games. And Love? He's done so "just" five times in his past 10, although the Wolves All-Star hasn't reached said mark in five straight.

To handicap this baby down the stretch, let us assume that Howard (who has missed just three games this year) plays in his team's final 11 regular season contests and that Love returns vs. the Celtics on Sunday night and plays the Wolves' final nine games. Of Howard's final 11 opponents (which include both New York and Charlotte twice), he'll face four teams in

Dwight Howard.jpg
Image courtesy of Keith Allison
the league's top half of rebounding, along with five individual players that chart in the league's top 20 in boards (including the Knicks' Amare Stoudemire twice). Love gets five of the NBA's top half of rebounding teams and four of the top 20 individual rebounders as opponents to close out the year.

To exercise some basic math: Should Howard average 18 rebounds a game over his last 11, he would conclude the campaign with 79 games played and 1,167 rebs at an average of 14.77 per game. For Love's final nine, if he were to go as "low" as nine boards per game, he'd finish the year with 80 games played and 1,177 rebounds at an average of 14.71 per game.

For the season, Kevin Love is pacing for 1,232 total rebounds, which would serve as the NBA's largest total since Dennis Rodman grabbed 1,367 for the Spurs back in 1993-94. Even if he gets healthy fast, Love won't usurp Rodman, nor do I believe he'll crack the 1,200 mark for the year.

But despite his own stellar season, a sensational finish, and shoulders cut like diamonds, Dwight Howard doesn't have another 200 rebounds in him.

Kevin Love won't have 25 wins (or maybe even 20) to reflect upon at the end of the season. But he'll have an NBA rebounding title to place on the mantle beside that worthy All-Star selection.

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