London • Even LeBron James was surprised.
The superstar forward on Team USA talked all the way through his answer to a question that he thought was about Kevin Durant, who scored 22 points in a 98-71 victory over France in their first game at the London Olympics on Sunday, only to find out that it wasn’t.
“Oh, Kevin Love?” he said.
Who could blame him?
Love, the 6-foot-10 power forward from the Minnesota Timberwolves, is among the forgotten men on the team trying to repeat as gold medalists, despite being one of the NBA’s pre-eminent rebounders.
Seldom mentioned among the stratospheric stars such as James, Love averaged just 12 minutes during the team’s five-game pre-Olympic tour, and scored less than four points per game. Only James Harden and rookie Anthony Davis played less.
So imagine everybody’s surprise when Love erupted for 14 points in 14 minutes against the French, mostly after a foul-filled first quarter.
“I needed a game like this under my belt,” he said.
Love was crucial when the game was still in the balance, scoring seven straight points in the second quarter to help blow open what had been a tight game during the sloppy first. The Americans weren’t finished suffering from foul problems, though, and needed some time to adjust.
Love also keyed an 8-0 run to end the third quarter and give the Americans the 27-point lead they maintained to the finish.
“The time he wasn’t playing early on, he has kind of used that as motivation,” James said. “So when he gets in the game, you know he’s going to produce. He’s one of the best rebounders that we have in this game, and one of the best shooters that we have. It’s good to see him now get into the flow of things after not playing much.”