Well, LeBron James saved the Cleveland Cavaliers again. After last night’s dramatic buzzer-beater, he has his team up 3-2 on the Indiana Pacers in the opening round of the playoffs. Come Friday, James has a chance to end the series and earn some much-needed time off before the next match-up begins.
Yes, I’m intentionally saying “he” has a chance. How can you not look at the series that way, after five straight games of James essentially putting the Cavs on his back? Cleveland’s superstar has received limited help from his supporting cast, a trend which will need to be fixed fast.
If you want a good place to start, look no further than Kevin Love. The Cavs’ second scoring option has been an eyesore this postseason, something the team can’t afford to have lasting much longer.
I’ve always been a staunch defender of Love, a player who might go down as one of the most underappreciated athletes the city of Cleveland has ever had. I firmly believed his best basketball was ahead of him upon his return from a broken hand last month. I’ve been annoyed about his constantly being a lightning rod for criticism among Cavs fans ever since he arrived in 2014, mainly because, more often than not, it’s undue.
It’s not right now.
Offensively, Love has been a black hole, a place where possessions go to die. He’s had one good showing in this series – a 19-point effort in Game 3 — surrounded by a lot of clunkers. Last night, he contributed just eleven points, six of which came on free throws. He shot just 2-11, a slight downturn from his 2-10 shooting in Game 4.
For what it’s worth, Love is at the very least contributing in other ways. He’s averaging 10.4 rebounds per game this series, which certainly helps the cause.
At the same time, the biggest issue for the Cavs right now is a lack of scoring outside of James. Obviously, the team’s only other All-Star boasting a field goal percentage of .328 in five games is a glaring factor in this.
Yet, Love’s shooting funk isn’t even the thing I’m most frustrated about in this series. Instead, it’s his constant whining to the refs.
It feels like every game in this series has featured the following sequence – Love misses a shot or loses the ball, feels as though he was fouled, immediately walks over to the ref to complain, all while the rest of his teammates are defending the Pacers 4-on-5. Eventually he trots back into the picture, often after Indiana has found an open look.
This, to me, is mind-numbingly annoying. Love is already a liability on the offensive end of the court. To top it off by consistently hanging his team out to dry on odd-man rushes so he can bitch about a non-call just makes it worse.
I get it. Love is understandably exasperated about how ineffective he’s been in this series. That said, letting this frustration get the best of him in the form of constant complaints to the refs is no way to handle it.
Despite all of this, Cleveland has been able to power through and enter Game 6 with a chance to eliminate Indiana. I’d be more excited about this if it all wasn’t coming at the expense of running James into the ground.
The way the Cavs are winning games – relying on their best player to contribute what feels like 95% of the scoring – isn’t sustainable whatsoever. Cleveland’s postseason will still be on borrowed time if help doesn’t arrive soon.
Love finally providing consistent offense and realizing he’s doing more harm than good when venting to refs during an active play would be a great start.