It’s Kevin Love’s Turn to Dominate the NBA Finals

Photo Credit: USA TODAY Sports

It’s Kevin Love’s Turn to Dominate the NBA Finals

Since the beginning of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Cleveland Cavaliers star forward Kevin Love has been playing the most efficient basketball of his career. His days in Minnesota—where he was the sole scorer and facilitator—were dominant, but is now shooting the ball at a higher rate, knocking down more three-pointers than ever and tallying double-digit rebound numbers.

To defeat the reloaded Golden State Warriors in what will be their third straight meeting in the NBA Finals, Love and the Cavaliers must play perfect each night. Sure, along with Love the Cavaliers have one of the greatest players to ever play in LeBron James, a facilitator in Kyrie Irving, and above average role players, but Golden State’s addition of 2014 Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant makes all the difference on an already great roster.

Kevin Love’s 2016-17 season saw the big man averaging the most points (19.0), rebounds (11.1), and best three-point percentage (37.3%) since his final year in Minnesota. He averaged 22.6 points on an efficient 48.6 percent from the field in five games against Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, including a postseason-best 53.5 percent from beyond the arc to go with 12.4 rebounds.

When asked why Love has played so well, Warriors forward Draymond Green said “he’s playing more confident.” The numbers show that statement to be true, along with his boosted enthusiasm on the court.

This isn’t the first rodeo between Kevin Love and Draymond Green. Early in their careers, they played in the same conference and faced each other a few times a year. Oh, and of course, they met each other in the NBA Finals for the previous two years. The question remains—will Love be able to play as well against the quick, small-ball lineup the Warriors will throw at him? As LeBron James was the sole defender on Green before Durant arrived, Love will have to step up and contain the two-time All-Star.

“For Kevin [Love], I’ve just constantly told him just to be himself, that’s it,” teammate Kyrie Irving said. “‘We don’t want anybody else, Kev, we don’t want you to try to be outside of any boundaries. You’re boundless. Your potential is endless and we believe in you, so go out there and play like it.’ So that was just a journey that we all had to endure, and we’re still continuing that.”

In the 2016 NBA Finals, Love’s numbers dipped to an awful 7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds per game, but was battling a concussion sustained in Game 2. If healthy, Cleveland’s quest for their first championship would have been a whole lot easier.
Kevin Love’s value is most exposed in the half court offense. His ability to shoot the three-ball stretches the floor and gives teammates lanes to cut the basket without a big man in the paint. Also, rocketing a pass out of the post to a lethal three-point shooter in Kyle Korver, JR Smith, or Kyrie Irving will make Golden State think twice about double teaming him.
Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James wants Love to play as if he was the main option in Minnesota.

“We want the mentality of Kevin from Minnesota, but his usage rate doesn’t have to be as high as Minnesota,” James said after Love dropped 32 points and 12 rebounds in Game 1 against Boston. “Obviously we all know that he was a featured guy pretty much every possession going down the floor, and here that’s changed a little bit because we have other guys. But his mentality needs to stay the same as Minnesota.”

It is time for Kevin Love to dominant on the biggest stage. His confidence is high and three-ball is falling; he must duplicate his Eastern Conference Finals prowess in the NBA Finals in order for Cleveland to repeat as champions.

 

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