The Cleveland Cavaliers had their backs up against the wall. The Golden State Warriors were heading home and had all the momentum as they would be in Oracle. And despite the incident that knocked out forward Draymond Green via suspension, there was more than enough optimism the Warriors would knock out the Cavaliers. But someone forgot to tell Kyrie Irving and LeBron James that they were supposed to lose. LeBron, despite all the noise around him, came out and took control early in the game, hitting three’s, jump shots and attacking the rim. And as far as Kyrie, his wizardry with the basketball along with the incredible shots he hit over and over were great to watch as a basketball fan. Behind 41 points from James and 41 points from Kyrie Irving, the Cavs were able to stave off elimination and now Golden State has to head back to Cleveland. Cleveland got outstanding performances from Irving and James, but there was one supposed star player that was missing from the equation. Kevin Love, the supposed member of the Big 3 in Cleveland, had only two points. Yes, only two points. But this is not something that should surprise anyone with how things have been going for him.
Kevin Love signed back in Cleveland with the thoughts that he would grow more with LeBron and Kyrie this season. And during the season, it seemed like all three were gelling well with each other going into the postseason. As the playoffs were going forward, Love was also playing well but then the Toronto series happened and he hit some speed bumps. And unfortunately, he has not been the consistent third scorer they were used to ever since that series. Offensively, he is averaging only seven points per game. Yes, Love is not even averaging double figures at all. Love has been getting open looks and matchups all series long. The Cavs usually put him in the post to get him going. And in this series he has had plenty of favorable matchups there. He even had Steph Curry on his back in the post one time. And in that time, like many others, he has failed to take advantage of his opportunity down there. Love has gone up soft a lot of times inside and that is something that is unforgiveable at this point in the season. When it’s winning time, you have to finish in there with power. And as a power forward by position, he seems to not bring much power when it matters most in the paint.
But not only has Love not been scoring in the paint when he has the opportunity. He has not even hit the open looks that he has been given. Love had some games this season where he had it going from the three-point line. And for the season, he shot 36% from behind the three-point line. When the playoffs began, he ended up shooting the basketball well, capped off by him shooting 47% behind the three-point line. But ever since that series, his three-point accuracy has gotten worse and worse. And in this series against the Golden State Warriors, Love is shooting 29% from the three-point line. Now we know he does not get many touches, but you would think that he would be accurate with the ones that he gets. But instead, he is quiet as can be. And as a result, he has not had that much of an impact on this series. In fact, veteran small forward Richard Jefferson has actually had a bigger impact on this series than he has. And if you look at the numbers, Jefferson has actually outscored him in two of the four games that he has played in. That is something that cannot happen, especially with someone that they are paying $110 million to.
Defensively, the Cavs have been solid for pretty much the whole series against Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. Both have been stymied at times and Steph has not really been able to find his rhythm all series long besides Game 3. But even with the Cavs playing the Splash Brothers solidly all series, the mismatch has been whoever Love has guarded. Whether it be Love guarding Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes or Draymond Green, he has been taken advantage of mostly because he has not been that great on rotations. And when he gets switched on Steph Curry, he has sometimes been blinded by his shot. But not only is he getting taken advantage of when he is guarding someone. He is also getting abused on the boards. Kevin Love can be seen many times reaching for rebounds and the Warriors have beat him to a few of them as well. It just seems like he is either lost or not exhibiting the effort that is needed to win a title for the Cavaliers at all times. Kyrie answered the challenge and has played better defense. But it seems that Love is still content being sometiming defensively instead of eating up the glass like he has done in his career.
Eventually Love and Lue are going to have to make decisions. Love has to decide he wants to sell out for his team to win the title. If he does, then that makes the Cavs a tougher team. The more aggressive he is, the more he will get the ball and get involved in the game. If he continues to be passive, then that puts the onus on Tyronn Lue to make a decision to stick with him or go to reserve Richard Jefferson. Playing Love 33 minutes in this game and him only getting two points did not hurt him in this game because of the performances of Irving and James. But in the next game, they will need more from him and they will need it now. He’s getting paid like a star, so he needs to play like one also. Or else he will be sitting the bench, watching his team play without him.
The General Mike Patton is an up-and-coming writer from Nashville, TN who brings a fresh and non-biased opinion about sports. From his radio experience in Nashville to his time as a sports writer for Free’s World, the website for radio personality and former cohost of BET’s 106 and Park Free (www.freesworld.com), The General is definitely one you want to get to know in the sports world. You can catch his work on SPORTSAWAKENING.COM. Mike grew up rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bulls and Chicago Cubs, and remains a passionate sports fan who expresses intelligent opinions.
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