Kevin Love has made his feelings about playing center clear repeatedly throughout the season— he would rather be at power forward.
“It’s been my whole career I’ve played at the 4,” he said. “(Tyronn Lue) sees something different, and I think offensively once I get myself going we could use that to our advantage.”
Following Thursday’s shootaround, LeBron James said it is a fine line between listening to what Love wants and the coaching staff doing what is best from a matchup standpoint.
“Obviously it’s a fine line,” James said. “We’ve been very successful with Kev at the 5, but we have to listen to what Kev needs as well. If there’s times throughout the postseason or the game where he’s feeling a little worn down because he’s battling with a lot of bigs, then we’ve got to make the substitution properly.
“I think Coach Lue has done that, obviously with the start of Game 7, being able to start (Tristan Thompson) at the five and allow Kev to play his natural position. We’re going to do what’s best for the team, but we also want to do what’s best for our All-Star as well. I think the coaching staff has done a great job of that.”
Toronto’s big man put up 21 points and 21 rebounds against the Cavs in Game 1, and 11 of those points came when he was guarded by Love. On the other end of the court, Love missed all four of his shots when guarded by Valanciunas. He was just 3-of-13 for the game.
Against Thompson, Valanciunas shot 1-of-7 from the field with two points.
On Wednesday, Lue said they would be sticking with Love at the center for Game 2 to provide floor spacing. It’s something that worked in the regular season against the Raptors. Love averaged a double-double of 17 points and 12 boards, and the Cavs took the season series, 2-1.
But realistically, that plan only works if Love is hitting shots. Otherwise, Valanciunas can still hang back near the rim as a second line of defense trying to block shots. As James said, managing what position Love plays at is “a fine line” indeed, and it’s one that the Cavs coaching staff is going to have to continue to toe through the remainder of the series.