MINNEAPOLIS – With more than 15,000 fans standing and cheering, Kevin Love went to the free-throw line in the second quarter and knocked down the shot that gave him 10 points and 10 rebounds for the game.
The Timberwolves faithful, so desperate for anything positive in another dreary season, erupted. Minnesota's All-Star forward, who has been asked endlessly about his double-double streak for the past month, exhaled.
Love recorded his 52nd double-double in a row to pass Moses Malone for the longest such streak since the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, and the Timberwolves beat the free-falling Indiana Pacers 101-75 Wednesday night.
The remarkable consistency Love has shown has garnered him plenty of attention, but few victories. The Timberwolves (16-50) have lost more games than any team in the Western Conference and have won just 12 times since the streak began on Nov. 22 against Oklahoma City.
There have been times when Love has felt that too much was being made out of an arbitrary achievement. But there is also no doubt that he is proud about what he has been able to do in his third season in the league.
"In some ways I wish it would've ended. In some ways I'd like to keep it going," said Love, who finished with 16 points and 21 boards in three quarters of work on a sore left knee. "Maybe it'll die down a little bit and I can just go out there and do my job. Nothing's really changed about how I feel about the double-double streak or the situation. I just go out there and play hard."
It's been difficult to get a handle on what exactly Love has accomplished. It's certainly nowhere near the magic of Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak or the gravitas of Brett Favre's 297 straight games started.
Is it even a record at all? Not really, because the NBA doesn't keep double-doubles as an official record and several players had longer streaks before the merger. Elvin Hayes had 55 in a row in 1973-74 and Wilt Chamberlain had at least 227 straight double-doubles at one point during his dominant career, though the exact number has been difficult for researchers to pin down.
After watching the entire fourth quarter from the bench, which almost never happens for the lowly Timberwolves, Love was asked if he thought his mark should be considered a record.
"Whether you put it as a modern-day or an ABA-NBA merger, I would say yes," he said. "But if you're looking at the grand scheme of things, you've got to look at that 227. The Big Dipper. Wilt the Stilt. He's something special. You've got to look at that.
"It's not like I have my eyes set on that too much. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at in 2011 with 52 double-doubles."
And counting. The Wolves host the Utah Jazz on Friday night, and both Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle and Lakers star Kobe Bryant have said recently that the only thing that will stop Love's streak is an injury during a game.
Even that wasn't enough on Wednesday night.
With a bulky brace wrapped around his bruised and swollen left knee, Love 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.
The Pacers were clanging shot after shot, allowing Love to gobble up 10 rebounds in 12 minutes of playing time. The clinching free throw splashed through with 6:51 still to play in the first half, the 27th time this season that Love has posted a double-double in just two quarters.
"It's a significant accomplishment just for the consistency factor of it," Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis said. "It's hard for young players to be consistent, so that's quite an accomplishment; and also considering there's a lot of hard work that goes into getting rebounds in particular."
And there haven't been many cheapies. There have only been three times in the 52 games that Love has qualified for the double-double with the bare minimum of 10 rebounds and only once when he has been held to just 10 points.
He had 12 points and 12 rebounds at Dallas on Dec. 1, 12 points and 10 boards at the Clippers on Dec. 20 and a 10-point, 10-rebound squeaker against Memphis on Feb. 2.
But the monster nights have been far more common. He has four games in which he has scored at least 30 points and grabbed at least 20 rebounds. The Lakers' Pau Gasol is the only other player in the NBA to do that this season and he's only done it once.
He also has 11 20-20 games this season. Had he not missed seven free throws on Wednesday night, he would have become the first player to do that 12 times since Kevin Willis in 1991-92.
The eye-popping production has served as somewhat of a distraction during another season filled with losing in Minnesota, which is perhaps why some hearty Timberwolves fans have taken to chanting "MVP! MVP!" when Love goes to the free throw line.
Seeing his downtrodden fans excited at Target Center for once seemed to energize Love. Even after saying it would be nice for the attention to recede a little bit, Love was told that Hayes is next on the list with 55 straight.
"Why not go for Elvin then?" Love said. "Why stop now?"