Patriots

Love a legitimate MVP candidate

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Love a legitimate MVP candidate

MINNEAPOLIS Every year, there are clear-cut favorites for the NBA's MVP race.

This year, you have the likes of defending league MVP Derrick Rose of Chicago, Kevin Durant of Oklahoma City, Miami's LeBron James and Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, in the mix.

But as the season progresses, there's usually one player who comes out of nowhere and enters the MVP conversation.

Minnesota's Kevin Love is that player.

The numbers he's putting up this year - 26.3 points and 13.9 rebounds per game - aren't just good.

They are the kind of numbers we haven't seen in decades.

The last player to finish a season with that many points and that many rebounds per game was Moses Malone in 1982, which just so happened to be one of the years in which Malone was named league MVP.

But there's one difference between what Malone did and what Love is doing now.

That team Malone played for, went to the postseason.

The Timberwolves (25-27) are currently 2.5 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"The window's closing," said Love, referring to the Timberwolves' postseason hopes. "So we definitely have to try and win a large majority of these games."

As much as Love would love the focus for Friday's game to be on the Timberwolves and their chances at making the playoffs, it was another Kevin - Garnett, the former Minnesota star - whose return had the place buzzing.

With Love's play catapulting him to young superstar status, the comparisons abound between him and Garnett, the last young superstar in the Twin Cities.

You can count Love among those who grew up a fan of Kevin Garnett when he played in Minnesota.

"I was a jersey owner of Garnett back in the day," Love admitted. "Him and Tim Duncan those type of guys; those are guys I looked up to when I was very young; guys still in this league I'm fortunate enough to play against. It's a dream come true for me, but at the end of the day I know I have to come out and help my team win a basketball game by any means."

Aside from having the same first name, Love doesn't believe there's a lot in common with his game and Garnett's style of play.

"It's really an unfair comparison," Love said. "He's a once-in-a-lifetime type player. If I can do some of the things he did for this franchise, it would be nice. But more than anything, I want to win. And he brought a lot of winning years to this franchise. More than anything, hopefully I can emulate that."

Game notes: Patriots tie Browns for second-longest streak of .500-or-better seasons

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Game notes: Patriots tie Browns for second-longest streak of .500-or-better seasons

Notes from the Patriots' 33-8 victory over the Raiders in Mexico City . . . 

-- New England is now 8-2 and is guaranteed to have a .500 or better record for the 17th consecutive season, tying the 1957-73 Browns for the second-longest streak in NFL history. The record is 21, held by the 1965-85 Cowboys. The Pats last had a losing season in 2000, when they were 5-11 in Bill Belichick's first season in New England.

PATRIOTS 33, RAIDERS 8

-- The Patriots have now won 13 straight road games, setting a franchise record. They remain in second place on the NFL all-time list, behind the 18 straight road games won by the 1988-90 49ers.

-- Tom Brady completed 30 of 37 passes (81.1 percent) for 339 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 131.9 passer rating. Brady has 82 career games with at least 300 passing yards and is the only player in NFL history to record a 300-yard passing game in three different countries (United States, United Kingdom and Mexico). Brady is also the first player to have a game with at least three passing touchdowns in three different countries.

-- The Pats are now 3-0 in international games, and have outscored their opponents by a combined 113-22 score in those games. 

-- Stephen Gostkowski scored 15 points on four field goals and three PATs and moved into the top 20 on the all-time NFL scoring list.

-- Gostkowski set a franchise record for longest field goal, 62 yards, in the light air of Mexico City.