With all the talk about LeBron James and his ever-evolving legacy, Kyrie Irving and his ascension to greatness and the recent struggles of Draymond Green and The Splash Brothers, if Cleveland is to come back from 3-2 to win this NBA Finals, Kevin Love will have to get his head out of the clouds of mediocrity, get on his Kyrie Irving and have an impactful Game 6.
By impact I mean a career game at the most crucial moments. A performance that dispels any criticism about Love’s heart and clutch ability.
TSL is calling out the Great White Hope. It’s time for Love to muster his inner Larry Bird and do something to help his team win. Preferably, a display of basketball marvel and wizardry that All-Star, max-money players provide when the stakes are the highest.
When Love left Minnesota, he was considered a Top 3 forward in the game. His last year with the lowly Wolves in 2013-14 he averaged a robust 26.1 points per game and 12.5 rebounds. Love was supposed to be the Chris Bosh to Irving’s Dwyane Wade, and together they were to duplicate or surpass the feats of the Miami Heat, who won two chips with the Big Three.
In Game 5 of the 2016 NBA Finals, Cleveland’s Big three combined for 84 points which was the trio’s highest such total this postseason. Unfortunately, Love, who has been the disappearing man throughout these playoffs and at times during a regular season in which he averaged a modest 16 points per game, scored just two of those 84 points.
It’s like he’s watching the game go on around him sometimes, but he’s not connecting with the moment.
This is Love’s moment. Game 6 is his time to shine.
No more passing the buck or making people believe you have embraced being a “role player”. He needs to dig in his swag bag and channel his inner T-Wolf. That’s the least Love can do. He’s been getting paid like a legend to do very pedestrian things.
No one is knocking the fact that he was able to scale back his game when joining Cleveland and accept being a third-option on offense, but Love, always the subject of trade rumors, owes the city of Cleveland one of his vintage 38-point, 20-rebound games tonight.
It's the only thing that will make Cavs fans forget about the fact that they traded Andrew Wiggins in the deal that landed Love two summers ago. An NBA championship and a playoff performance for the ages will certainly delay the trauma.
I assumed Love would be chomping at the bit to put his skills on display in these playoffs, especially after his shoulder was pulled from its socket in the first round last year, ending his playoffs right there. All the what-ifs that followed as LeBron single-handedly pushed Golden State to six games, had to give him added inspiration.
I thought I’d see a renewed hunger, a fire for the game. The basic human instinct, to be praised and fight through tough times.
(Photo Credit: zimbio.com)
The city has become weary of Love’s inconsistency and his overall lack of killer instinct. Chris Bosh understood his diminished offensive role with Miami and provided other things, especially defensively.
Love is either a factor on offense or he’s not, but when he is on, Cleveland usually wins. He's had 55 games of 20 or more points in his two Cleveland seasons, and the Cavs are 40-15 in those games. Looks like the Cavs have a hell of a chance to pull this off. Love just has to show up and play with some heart. Ball with a purpose beyond the paper.
Nobody is asking him to average 30 for the series. He’s averaging 15 and 8 and shooting about 39 percent from the field. It’s time for him to earn that check though.
It’s cool being one of a handful of white superstars in the game. In fact, he gets a free pass to be scrubby at times.
But Love owes himself and the city of Ohio a monster performance. If he does end up leaving Cleveland, he can’t go out like a sucker. Game 6 is the game that he should kick ass, take names and remind everyone that he is more than just a complementary player.