By Brian Robb, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — In the first three rounds of the 2016 NBA postseason, Kevin Love averaged a double-double per game. He shot a superb 43 percent from 3-point range and 88 percent from the free throw line.READ MORE: Report: Sen. Elizabeth Warren Says She Is Running For Re-Election In 2024
Yet, based on the analysis you’ve heard on the radio over the past few days, you may have guessed Love is a player that has been holding the Cavs back all postseason, despite his team going 12-2 overall with him in the Eastern Conference playoffs.
Love has been bad in the NBA Finals and he’s been bad against the Warriors all season, as Cleveland has gone 0-4 against Golden State when he’s suited up this year. There’s no denying that. However, there has to be a line drawn in the sand on the “Love Blame Game.” Fans have been casting too much fault on the star forward for two blowouts with him on the floor and one impressive win he sat out with concussion symptoms.
Let’s start with the first two losses of the series. Love produced just 22 points and 16 rebounds in those two contests while Cleveland lost both games by an average of 24 points. While both were subpar performances prior to Love’s injury, it’s easy to forget the eggs that the Cavs’ supporting cast also laid when analyzing the defeat.
J.R. Smith, for instance, scored eight points total in those contests. Kyrie Irving shot 33 percent from the field. LeBron James posted his near triple-double numbers, but also turned the ball 11 times in the road defeats.READ MORE: NASA Wallops Rocket Launch Now Scheduled For Sunday Night
Defensively, the entire team was a wreck, getting beaten on backdoor plays, cuts, transition baskets and from the perimeter. Love has never had a good reputation as a defender, but casting the blame on him as the rest of his teammates experienced the same struggles is foolish.
So what about the Cleveland’s turnaround in Game 3 then? Was going small with Richard Jefferson at the 4 in place of an injured Love a real game-changer? Some pundits would like you to think so, but that ignores how much better the Cavs have been at home all postseason.
They have not lost a game yet at Quicken Loans Arena, and I’m betting the Cavs would have delivered the same kind of resilient performance with their season hanging in the balance whether or not Love was suiting up. I don’t think Love’s absence helped Smith and Irving score a combined 50 points. That pair just played better as most performers do on their home floor.
As Game 4 approaches on Friday night, it’s unclear yet if Love will be declared active and whether he will come off the bench if he is. That option makes sense for a player coming off an injury and against a team that exposes Love defensively as they spread the floor so well.
With that said, there’s no question Love can, and probably will, help the Cavs in this series (assuming he’s close to 100 percent). The veteran has never been the team’s problem in this series and that trend should continue in Game 4, win or lose.MORE NEWS: Obama Family Announces Death Of Family Dog Bo
Brian Robb covers the Celtics for CBS Boston and contributes to NBA.com, among other media outlets. You can follow him on Twitter @CelticsHub.