For the third consecutive game, we have come to realize that Kevin Love is essential to Team USA's gold medal hopes in London.
In each of the games against Lithuania, Argentina and Australia, the United States did not dominate in their customary fashion. Despite winning two of those games by 29 and 33 points, for at least two-and-a-half quarters of each game, the team couldn't break away until late.
The difference maker for this team? Kevin Love.
The Minnesota Timberwolves' beast on the boards is exactly what gives this undersized, small-ball team their best chance of winning basketball games.
While Tyson Chandler is a tremendous presence at the center spot, there are times when his foul trouble has him playing few minutes at the international level. There is a lot of contact down low and Chandler has found himself getting tough calls go against him.
In the first quarter of the win over Australia, Chandler picked up three fouls in the first half and, as a result, was unable to really get going in the contest. He played a mere eight minutes and posted just two boards the entire game.
Yet it was Love that came in to save the day. In just 20 minutes of play, he posted 10 points and 11 rebounds to help propel Team USA to the victory.
One of the more effective aspects of Love's game is his rate of production when on the floor. He is easily the most efficient player per minute he is on the hardwood, and it is key to this team's success in the second half of games.
Against Team Lithuania, in what was a close contest until the final whistle, Love's eight boards in 12 minutes were crucial to the team's ability to pull out the win. The five-point win was easily Team USA's slimmest margin of victory at the Olympics, and it was Love's play that gave his team the edge.
It is also important to mention just how integral he is on the offensive end of the floor. Not only does he score points, but he is a tremendous asset on the offensive glass. This year's "Dream Team" is more inclined to take jump shots as opposed to setting the pace with the post game.
That's where Love comes into play.
He attacks the glass with outright excellence. Of the 11 rebounds Love grabbed in the 119-86 win over Australia, eight were offensive. Love is able to help this shoot-first squad get second and third opportunities on multiple possessions per game and it has been crucial to the team's continued success at the Games.
Talk about impressive.
He scores well, possesses a great deal of rebounding prowess on both ends of the floor and does it all consistently and with the utmost efficiency. When the team plays in games like the Lithuania and Australia games which came down to the final quarter, the extra rebounding and scoring in scarce minutes is crucial and it is most certainly the difference maker.
The hustle is there and the proficiency in all facets of the game is evident for Love. In games when it comes down to one extra-effort play to win a game, this is the guy Coach K has to want out on the floor.