Kevin Love has had a quiet postseason thus far, averaging 13.8 points per game on only 9.9 attempts through eight games so far, and Tyronn Lue says that his depressed scoring numbers are on him.
‘Some of it’s my fault because we haven’t really featured him a lot because of the matchups we had against other teams. But he’s been great, his whole mindset is winning, and that’s what it’s all about in the playoffs. In this next series, we have some matchups he can definitely take advantage of.”
That makes a degree of sense; the Cavaliers have scored with such ease in this postseason with a LeBron and Kyrie-centric attack, there hasn’t been a ton of shots for Love in the offense. That said, when the defense allows opportunities, Lue hasn’t been afraid to go to Love, like he did against the Pacers in Game 2.
Lue is certainly right about this: either the Celtics or Wizards should provide plenty of opportunities for Love. Both teams like to downshift in size, and Markieff Morris is undersized as a four in the first place. Love should be able to find opportunities there, especially when the Cavaliers can force a switch.
The Celtics are also an absolutely terrible rebounding team; the Cavaliers will count on Love and Tristan Thompson to control the series on the glass.
An important distinction that people often fail to note with regards to Love’s usage is that what’s best for Love is not always what’s best for the Cavaliers offense. There’s a false equivalency that says “the Cavaliers need to get Kevin Love playing like he did in Minnesota to reach their ceiling,” and there’s no way of knowing whether that’s true. The team did win a title with Love in an iteration of his current role, so more usage is not always the key to Cavaliers success.
That said, not unlike Kyrie Irving who managed to be an enormous asset against the Raptors despite a disappearing jump shot, Lue noted that Love found ways to contribute outside of scoring.
“He’s been good. Each series is different. Just because you’re not scoring the basketball or whatever, defensively and rebounding the basketball, he’s been great. “
I wrote an article after the Pacers series bemoaning the Cavaliers season-long rebounding woes. In the second round, however, the Cavaliers have the top-ranked rebound rate and the top-ranked defensive rebound rate. That’s where Love comes in. Tristan Thompson gets a ton of deserved love for his insane offensive rebounding ability, but nobody finishes off possessions like Kevin Love.
The Cavaliers will likely need an uptick from Love in the scoring department, but until that happens, they’ll count on him to continue to play smart defense and clean the glass.