Kevin Love hasn’t played in a 4th quarter for the Cavaliers since Game 2. That was also the last time the Cavs played in Cleveland. (It was also the last time they won a basketball game.) Love has been a huge part of Cleveland’s success in his second year with the team — LeBron James actually said the offense would run through Love this year. But the big man who has become less of a rebounding force and more of a jump shooter hit a shooting slump in Toronto, knocking down just 5-of-23 shots in the two road losses. He did not look aggressive.
Shooters hit slumps all the time. But as the Cavs prepare for Game 5 in Cleveland, what Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said about sitting Love in those 4th quarters was much more damning than merely calling out Love’s shooting woes. Lue acknowledged he didn’t trust in Love’s readiness — and in Love’s ability to contribute late in “hostile games.” Lue:
“To just try to put Kevin back in with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter in a hostile game, hostile environment, it’s not fair to him.”
Not fair for a player making $20 million a year to play basketball in a tough game? Lue opted to go with journeyman forward Channing Frye over the two-time All-Star Love in critical late moments. Again, both Cavs losses. Lue said Love “understands that Channing was playing well and I just decided to ride with Channing.” Anybody watching the game understands that. Agreeing with it is something else.